A federal grand jury today indicted Episcopal priest Robert Smith for fraud related to his tenure as CEO of Saint Francis Ministries. He is accused of defrauding the non-profit foster care provider of at least $4.7 million by using fake invoices.
Among the charges are that Smith took a $50,000 kickback and used the nonprofit’s credit cards for personal expenses, including cash withdrawals, clothing and jewelry. Additionally, he was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud, and one charge of money laundering.
If convicted, Smith faces up to 20 years in federal prison, as well as fines and restitution.
Canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago, Smith was hired by the nonprofit in 2014. He resigned in November 2020 following accusations of financial improprieties.
One of the largest foster care providers in the state, St. Francis Ministries is teetering on the brink of insolvency and has sued Smith.
Smith previously faced a Title IV proceeding, after which he was suspended, made to take ethics training, among other terms and conditions. At the time, he allegedly informed the diocese that he was not under federal investigation and that no new allegations would emerge. A church investigation found only errors of judgment on Smith’s part. As a result, and due to Smith’s representations, the suspension subsequently was lifted.
Following news of the charges, Bishop Paula Smith suspended Smith and removed his access to all church financial resources.
Every time I hear these scandals, and there seem to be a lot of them for such a small denomination, I become more and more grateful that the Episcopal dean told me he would never want me to be part of his denomination.
This is a horrible, horrible organization…
I agree buddy. I’m persona non grata in much of the church and deeply honored. The recent scandals here in TEC are especially ugly — since when was adultery by a priest okay?!? And we did nothing to care for the victims. How is that even Christian?
TEC is like a badly run fraternity.