AMBRIDGE (KDKA) – A member of a religious order in Beaver County is facing charges for allegedly stealing $220,000 in church funds.
According to the Beaver County District Attorney's Office, 62-year-old Thomas Paul Ross stole $220,695 from the Good Samaritan Parish in Ambridge. Ross served as the church's music and liturgy director and the fundraising coordinator for more than 20 years.
The thefts occurred from 2006 through 2015.
In April 2015, surveillance cameras were installed in the parish offices after missing funds were discovered.
Surveillance video captured Ross removing sealed envelopes from a cabinet on four occasions. In May 2015, Ross, also known as Brother Ambrose, was confronted with the video evidence and admitted to taking the funds.
"He didn't have any idea how much it was. He was astonished when he found out how much it was," said Ambridge Police Chief James Mann. "He said he had a gambling problem."
During the course of their investigation, police discovered Ross had a Players Card with the Rivers Casino. From 2010-15, Ross racked up $2.7 million in gambling transactions with losses at about $331,500.
He was making $28,000 a year from his salary.
An audit of the parish found the following:
- A total of $24,432 was missing from loose weekly collections from 2012-15.
- During the same time period, $141,981 was missing from parishioner envelope contributions.
- From 2006-15, $54,282 was missing from votive candle contributions.
Ross is charged with third-degree felonies of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and a third-degree misdemeanor of receiving stolen property.
One man, who doesn't want to be identified but says he's known Ross for years, says he cannot believe the accusations.
"He's a great guy. I mean, he'd bend over backwards to help you out. He bent over backwards to help me and my family out," the man said.
Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese Bishop David Zubik released a statement reading, in part, "I am deeply grieved that anyone would take gifts that others have so sacrificially given to the Church."
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