FRESNO, CA (KMJ) – Ignacio Villafan, the pastor of St. Rita’s Church in Tulare, was sentenced to 5 years probation for stealing over $300,000 from his church.
Between June 1, 2005 and January 21, 2012, the Tulare District Attorney’S Office says Villafan wrote church checks for his personal use over $195,000.
Villafan also gifted church funds to benefit family members.
“Many positions held in our communities are positions of trust, and it is troubling when that trust is betrayed,” said District Attorney Tim Ward. “Mr. Villafan’s crime affected those who trusted him in ways we’ll never know, and to this day Mr. Villafan has done little to nothing to restore that trust and faith. To think that a person could steal such a large sum and not face incarceration undermines the justice that we in the District Attorney’s Office seek every day.”
The diocese’ forensic audit revealed a total loss over $300,000.
On March 5, 2018, the 52 year-old pleaded to one felony count of grand theft of personal property with the special allegation that the financial amount exceeded $200,000.
Villafan entered his plea at the start of the fifth day of his preliminary hearing.
The DA’s Office says restitution will be determined at a hearing in October.