A California priest has been accused of stealing nearly $100,000 from churches in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. Police became suspicious of Father Oscar Diaz when they discovered bags of cash containing roughly $20,000 in his car after he was involved in an accident in June.
Authorities were able to trace the bags of money to Resurrection Parish, where Diaz served as pastor. Church leaders began looking into Diaz and discovered he also stole $77,000 from other parishes where he worked in the past.
"There is also evidence that money was stolen in a variety of ways from each of the parishes where he had served as pastor. I am deeply grieved that this has happened and am deeply saddened that the parishes he was sent to serve have been harmed," Bishop Robert F. Vasa said in a statement for the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
He wrote that it is possible Diaz stole more money, and the Diocese is continuing their internal investigation so they can make full restitution to the parishes Diaz stole from.
"The full extent of the theft is not known and may never be fully known, but the Diocese is committed to determining as fully as possible the extent of the theft from each of these parishes. Once such determinations are made, it is the goal of the Diocese to make restitution to the parishes."
Diaz has been suspended from the ministry. Criminal charges have not been filed against Diaz. Vasa suggested that it would be too costly for them and pointed out that Diaz is cooperating with the Diocese's investigation.
"While I am willing to have Father Oscar face prosecution I do not know that I want to expend additional money for a prosecution which brings no additional benefit to either the Diocese or the parishes which are victims of his crimes. I am very interested in determining a full accounting of the theft for possible Insurance purposes and in order to do this I initially thought that a criminal complaint by me and a police investigation would be the only way to access Father Oscar's Banking Records. To his credit, Father Oscar has been very cooperative with me in obtaining the records I need to establish some estimate of the full extent of theft," Vasa wrote.
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