It’s sentencing Part Two for the Rev. Samuel Ciccolini.
Ciccolini, a well-known Catholic priest, will appear today before federal Judge James Gwin in Cleveland to be resentenced for banking and income tax crimes.
His original sentence — one day in custody, a $350,000 fine and a $3.5 million restitution order — was overturned this year. The appeals court ruled the judge had no authority to order restitution.
Unknown is how Gwin will handle the new sentence, especially because he had eased up on the prison sentence in favor of the costly restitution.
Federal prosecutors want Ciccolini, 70, popularly known as “Father Sam,” to be sent to prison for at least 18 months and to receive a hefty fine. The defense wants leniency and cites Ciccolini’s decades of service running the Interval Brotherhood Home, a nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment center in Coventry Township.
“At the time of his resignation, he left a thriving mission that encompassed in excess of $15 million in total assets,” defense attorney Nancy Jamieson wrote in a brief filed this week. “Father Sam was a tireless advocate for the many men and women who suffered from alcohol and substance abuse, as well as the underprivileged of the community in general. This lifetime of service cannot be and his good works cannot be refuted.”
Federal prosecutors aren’t as sympathetic.
“The defendant is a person who was well respected in the Greater Akron community,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Bulford wrote in a brief filed with the court this week. “He used that respect and reputation to facilitate his criminal activity. The nature and circumstances of the offense are aggravated for that reason.”
Gwin was harsh with Ciccolini at the original sentencing two years ago. He revealed the once-beloved priest — who was honored for his work by Pope John Paul II in 2000 — had amassed more than $5 million.
He quizzed Ciccolini in disbelief about how a priest could have so much money without stealing it from the nonprofit organization.
The judge even accused the priest of lying and said the money must have come from illegal means. Ciccolini, who had no real expenses, insisted he hoarded money over the years. At one point, he had $1 million in cash stashed in his room at the Immaculate Conception Church in Akron.
Gwin had reason to doubt the priest’s story.
Ciccolini has admitted he embezzled $1.28 million from the group’s fundraising foundation. Authorities say he falsified invoice records and financial records, shifting money from the nonprofit to his personal accounts.
He paid back the money after he was under investigation by federal authorities and was never charged with theft.
Instead, he pleaded guilty to one count of structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements and one count of making and subscribing a false tax return.
Federal authorities say Ciccolini deposited more than $1 million in bank branches in the Akron area from April to June 2003 by making 139 cash transactions. Banks are required to report deposits of more than $10,000 to federal authorities.
Ciccolini deposited lower amounts to avoid the reporting requirement. He has said he didn’t want people to know about his wealth, and he worried, at the time, about upcoming changes in federal currency and whether the bills he had hoarded would be worthless.
He also filed a tax return in 2004 listing his income for the previous year as $101,064 when it was $407,062. Although he faced only one income tax charge, he has admitted other returns were incorrect.
In the end, Gwin whacked Ciccolini with the costly restitution order, in part, because he believed it would be more painful than a lengthy prison stay for a priest who worshipped money. Prosecutors and the defense appealed.
Hundreds of documents
This time around, Jamieson filed hundreds of documents detailing the priest’s income since 1969. The paperwork notes he made $2.5 million in salary over his 42-year career.
It started with a modest $1,138 in 1969, and ended with a substantial $186,847 from Interval Brotherhood Home and its foundation in 2010.
The documents — with bank account numbers — also break down investments, revenue from his mother’s life insurance policy, gifts and other income. For example, he reported that friends and supporters gave him $30,000 in gifts on the 25th anniversary of his ordination.
He also made $1.4 million in personal donations to the nonprofit, the paperwork says.
“There was no evidence that the cash had been accumulated through any illegal means or activity of Father Sam,” Jamieson wrote in a document filed last week. “Rather, the cash represented years of hoarding every personal gift, salary or reimbursement realized so that he would always have resources to use in an emergency, whether personal, or on the part of the IBH and its staff or members.”
She also submitted results of a lie-detector test indicating that Ciccolini wasn’t laundering money and had no illegal purpose in mind for the money he deposited.
Ciccolini stepped aside as executive director of Interval Brotherhood Home after he was charged. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has barred him from publicly saying Mass or hearing confessions.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.