Man Accused of Impersonating Priest, Conning Parishioners Out of Money

He would visit parishes in the LA area asking for church donations, authorities said.

A 59-year-old man who was accused of impersonating a Catholic priest in order to steal from parishioners was arrested Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Erwin Mena was tracked down to the 1400 block of North Academy Road in the Elysian Park area and taken into custody without incident on a felony warrant.

"Our prayers go out to all the victims of his scam," the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said in a statement. "We are grateful to the Los Angeles Police Department for working to ensure that Erwin Mena was brought to justice."

He was charged on counts of falsifying a public document, perjury and multiple counts of grand theft. Among other things, he is accused of selling tickets for a trip to see the pope that never materialized.

The archdiocese reached out to the LAPD June 4, 2015, to report Mena.

The church said he defrauded parishioners by conning them out of money. Mena would allegedly visit Catholic parishes around the Los Angeles area, asking for donations to the church.

He was actually pocketing the money, authorities said.

Mena had apparently been doing this over the course of several years, the LAPD said.

He also unlawfully officiated at church ceremonies, according to police.

Mena was taken to the LA Metropolitan Jail, and was being held on $100,000 bail.  

It wasn't immediately clear how much money he had allegedly amassed.

The Archdiocese Catholic Center encourages anyone who has questions about the validity of any priest’s credentials should call (213) 637-7000.

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