CANONSBURG (KDKA) -- An assistant priest in Washington County is facing more than 200 felony charges related to the alleged theft of over $117,000 in parish funds.
North Strabane police charged Father George Athanasiou, 38, of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church, off West McMurray Road in Canonsburg, Wednesday on 223 counts of theft by unlawful taking, forgery, bad checks, and access device usage.
According to court records, Athanasiou is accused of embezzling more than $117,000 from the church's bank account. They say it started as early as April 2022 and continued through this month.
A bio, since removed from the church's website, said he's worked there for nearly five years. It also said Athanasiou began his ministry as a Pastoral Assistant in 2019. In 2020, he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood.
In a letter, church leadership said Athanasiou is suspended without pay pending the investigation.
The criminal complaint said North Strabane police met with church leadership on Nov. 20, 2023, who told them sometime around Sept. 2023 they realized "bank checks were missing" and "deposited into an unauthorized PNC Bank account."
Police say that Athanasiou was the only person during this timeframe who had a PNC ATM card and a search of his apartment led to the discovery of the card.
Church leadership said the father was the only church member with the ATM card, but he "would not be permitted to take, sign, or deposit… checks into that PNC account… and would have no legitimate reason to withdraw sums of the church's money from ATMs."
Police said PNC bank records, video and evidence recovered from the father's apartment show Athanasiou is the person responsible.
When investigators talked to the assistant priest, he "admitted to stealing the money due to personal hardships."
Athanasiou told police that he would take church checks, sign the back of them, and then deposit them into his account before transferring it to another account and taking cash out of that account through an ATM. He also told police he knew he was not authorized to do this.
Washington County District Attorney Jason Walsh said they're still adding up the total amount stolen but wants folks to know no matter who you are, if you commit a crime, it will be investigated.
"Someone who is put in a position of trust, a fiduciary position, with the members of a church and abuses that trust, it is absolutely sad," Walsh said.
When it comes to getting the money back to the church, the DA had this to say.
"Our goals in any prosecution is to make victims of crimes whole, so we work towards that goal in this case, like we do in every case," Walsh said.
In a letter to the church, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh called the news "deeply distressing…" and said "Father George is a beloved member of our families, and we must pray for him and for all those affected by this situation."
Court documents show that Athanasiou was placed on an unsecured bond of $250,000 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 18.
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