A former priest pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his church by setting up secret bank accounts to pay for a life of luxury, including traveling around the world and buying a condominium.
The Rev. Michael Jude Fay, who resigned last year as pastor of St. John Roman Catholic Church, pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and must pay restitution.
Prosecutors said Fay took between $1 million and $2.5 million over seven years, but the priest has disputed that. He admitted taking between $400,000 and $1 million.
"It's my understanding, your honor, that I used church monies, parish monies for means and for needs other than means and needs of the parish or the parishioners of the parish," Fay, dressed in a dark suit with a bandage on his hand, said in court. "My understanding is that it's by fraud."
Fay shopped at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, drove a Jaguar, attended a sports club, bought jewelry from Cartier, spent $130,000 for limo rides for himself and his mother, and stayed at hotels such as the Ritz Carlton, Hotel De Paris and the Four Seasons, according to an investigative report released last year by the Bridgeport Diocese. He spent tens of thousands of dollars on home furnishings and meals and more than $20,000 to mark the 25th anniversary of his ordination, the report said.
He also bought a condominium in Florida with another man. Federal investigators said Fay also spent money to buy a condominium in Philadelphia.
Fay and his attorney, Lawrence Hopkins, declined to comment outside court. In the hearing, Fay said he had undergone chemotherapy for prostate cancer but the treatment was not working.
He was released on a $50,000 bond; sentencing is set for Dec. 4.
The diocese thanked federal authorities for investigating the case.
"We pray that today's announcement will help the Saint John Parish community put a sad chapter of its history behind it and finalize the healing process," the diocese said in a statement.
Fay remains unauthorized to function as a priest, church officials said. The parish has received restitution in the form of cash, real estate, and personal property worth about a few hundred thousand dollars, church officials said.