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American Priest Faces Charges for Using $40,000 of Church Funds on Candy Crush

A Catholic priest found himself entangled in legal woes after being accused of misappropriating over $40,000 from St. Thomas More church funds to fuel his addiction to mobile gaming, specifically indulging in in-game purchases for popular titles like Candy Crush and Mario Kart Tour. Reverend Lawrence Kozak's alleged misuse of the church's credit card came to light through an investigation, resulting in his arrest for theft and related offenses in April 2025.

According to reports from The Independent's Indy, Reverend Kozak's spending spree on gaming-related microtransactions raised suspicions, prompting a closer examination of the church's financial records. The investigation, initiated after an accountant scrutinized the church's finances, uncovered a significant volume of Apple transactions linked to credit card accounts associated with the church. Reverend Kozak, who held the Apple ID connected to these transactions, reportedly made continuous purchases from 2019 until his removal from his position in 2022.

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Following the revelation of the financial irregularities, prosecutors in Chester County, Pennsylvania, took legal action against Reverend Kozak, charging him with theft and other offenses spanning a period of three years. The 51-year-old priest was promptly removed from his position and placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

During interrogation by law enforcement officials, Reverend Kozak admitted to grappling with a gaming addiction and disclosed that he had sought therapy to address this issue, attributing his excessive spending to his gaming habits. He clarified that the funds were primarily used to "power up" within the games, rather than for gambling purposes.

While Reverend Kozak acknowledged his responsibility in using the church's credit cards, he maintained that the transactions were unintentional and stemmed from a lack of attention to detail. Despite his claims of inadvertent spending, detectives emphasized his accountability for the financial mismanagement, highlighting his failure to exercise due diligence.

In an effort to rectify some of the financial damage caused, Reverend Kozak utilized $10,000 from his personal funds to settle a portion of the credit card debt. Additionally, he expressed remorse for his actions, apologizing to the church and making an additional contribution of $8,000 subsequent to his arrest.

The case serves as a cautionary tale regarding the consequences of unchecked addiction and underscores the importance of financial transparency and accountability, particularly within religious institutions entrusted with community resources.

May 2, 2024 11:07 a.m. 8715

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