Watch CBS News

Catholic priest spent $40K of church money on Candy Crush, slot machine apps, police say

128th annual Penn Relays underway; Supreme Court weighs Trump immunity and more news stories
128th annual Penn Relays underway; Supreme Court weighs Trump immunity and more news stories 02:46

POTTSTOWN, Pa. (CBS) -- A Pennsylvania priest is facing criminal charges after police said he stole thousands of dollars of church funds and used them for App Store transactions - like virtual slot machines, Mario Kart, Candy Crush and Pokémon Go.

A criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause allege Lawrence Kozak, a former pastor at St. Thomas More Parish in Pottstown, spent over $214,000 on his Apple ID and that just under $44,000 of that was charged to a credit card associated with the parish.

The affidavit written by a Pennsylvania State Police detective alleges there were over 2,000 transactions marked as "gaming" in a document running from September 2019 to June 2022.

The slot machine apps named in the complaint, like Cash Frenzy, Willy Wonka Vegas Casino Slots and Wizard of Oz Slot Machine Game, do not award real-world money for wins in the game. But they do allow you to spend real-world money to play.

In an interview with the investigating detective Kozak reportedly described spending money on his slot apps not as gambling, but rather as "powering up."

A review of his Amazon account also found the parish card was used for gifts for his goddaughter like an Amazon Fire tablet and chemistry set.

Kozak paid over $10,000 toward the parish credit card balance from an account not associated with the church.

The priest was approached about erroneous spending on the parish accounts before. At one point, the parish's business manager brought up the case of Monsignor Joseph McLoone, who resigned from St. Joseph's Church in Downingtown in 2018. 

McLoone resigned after he was accused and later pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars in parish funds to pad his salary, fund a beach house at the Jersey Shore and send money to men.

The business manager told investigators she said to Kozak: "I don't want to see your name in the newspaper."

Kozak is charged with theft by unlawful taking, failing to make required disposition of funds and accessing a device he was unauthorized to. 

The document also says Kozak sent a letter and a check for $8,000 to Father Thomas Kletzel, the new priest at St. Thomas More after Kozak was removed from the church.

"I am so sorry that I made this mistake which has been any source of stress for you. I have been paying the Credit Card since April when this all started." Then there's a list of line items and a conclusion: "thank you for your patience!"

Records show Kozak has posted bail and was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Chester County Magisterial District Court.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.