LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to three years and one month in federal prison Friday for siphoning some $650,000 from his northwest Las Vegas parish to support his gambling habit.
Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe, 59, made no reaction as U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan faulted him for abusing a position of trust in his congregation.
Muffled sobs erupted from a courtroom packed with supporters.
Defense attorney Margaret Stanish asked the judge for probation and to let the McAuliffe continue getting counseling for his gambling addiction, keep practicing as a priest and pay restitution to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Summerlin.
But the judge added four months to the sentence recommended by Deputy U.S. Attorney Christina Brown, who said there is no reason McAuliffe should get a break.
He could have received up to 60 years in prison.
McAuliffe had complete control from to 2002 to 2010 of church activities and finances and was able to hide his embezzlement because he was a signatory to financial statements to the Las Vegas Diocese and Catholic Archdiocese in San Francisco, Brown said.
When confronted by the FBI last May, "the defendant for two hours offered various explanations as to how his earnings supported his gambling," she said. "When these explanations failed, agents asked the defendant if he stole money from the church, which the defendant denied."
McAuliffe pleaded guilty in October, before an indictment or criminal complaint was filed, to three counts of federal mail fraud for falsifying documents sent in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to the archdiocese.
McAuliffe was removed as pastor of the northwest Las Vegas congregation of more than 8,000 families and relieved of diocese duties. A month before, the Rev. James Jankowski, interim pastor of the church, pleaded in the church newsletter for parishioners to be patient.
Bishop Joseph Pepe, head of the regional church administration since 2001, issued a statement saying the diocese and parish were cooperating with federal authorities, and that church administrators were handling the matter internally.
Stanish told the judge that McAuliffe began paying restitution to the church in May, and that to date, he had paid $13,420.