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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Priests 'took US church millions'
Monsignor John Skehan
Retired Monsignor John Skehan was at the church for 40 years
A Catholic priest in the US is under arrest and another is on the run after being accused of stealing millions of dollars from their parishioners.

Monsignor John Skehan, 79, was charged with grand theft, as Florida police searched for Father Francis Guinan.

The two men are suspected of stealing a total of $8.6m (4.6m) from their Palm Beach church and funding a lavish life of property, holidays and gambling.

A lawyer for Monsignor Skehan said the figures were "over-sensationalised".

Court documents contained few details about where the $8.6m went, Associated Press news agency reported.

Tip-off

Monsignor Skehan served at St Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church for about 40 years and was succeeded at the church three years ago by Father Guinan.

Monsignor Skehan used funds skimmed from the congregation to buy property, Florida law department officials said.

We hope the parishioners base their faith on God and Jesus and not on men
John Krolikowski,
parish manager

"In Father Guinan's case we found he used it more in lifestyle such as travelling, visits to Las Vegas, casinos, in the Bahamas," a department spokesman told the AFP news agency.

A police spokesman said they began investigating the two men after a tip-off in 2005.

"We got an anonymous letter that started it all," police spokesman Jeff Messer told AFP.

Monsignor Skehan was arrested at Palm Beach airport after returning from Ireland, officials said, but Father Guinan's location is unknown.

"One is in custody, one is not. We're still looking for his location, we knew where he was until Monday."

Parish manager John Krolikowski told AFP: "We hope the parishioners base their faith on God and Jesus and not on men."




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Monsignor John Skehan is taken into court



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