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Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Catholic priest accused of stealing £32,000 of church funds to play Candy Crush

by Lydia Davies

A US Catholic priest has been taken into custody and formally accused of misappropriating tens of thousands of dollars from church funds for personal use on mobile games, notably Candy Crush.

Rev Lawrence Kozak, formerly of St. Thomas More church in Pennsylvania was initially arrested in 2022 after suspicions arose about his use of the parish credit card for accumulating over $40,000 (£32,000) in charges.

Following the discovery, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia relieved Kozak of his duties and placed him on administrative leave.

On 25th April, the 51-year-old was charged with theft and related offences.

The Philadelphia Enquirer reported that a significant portion of the stolen funds was spent on in-app purchases within Candy Crush and Mario Kart Tour through the App Store.

An accountant auditing the church's finances identified a large number of transactions on Apple linked to the parish credit card between September 2019 and July 2022.

Kozak contended in interviews with detectives that he did not deliberately use church funds for gaming. He explained that the credit card was stored on his phone for legitimate church expenses such as software and streaming services but admitted to inadvertently making game purchases due to a "lack of vigilance."

Along with expressing regret over his actions, Kozak has since reimbursed the church up to $10,000 (£8,000) from his own funds towards the credit card debt and an additional $8,000 (£6,000) via cheque coupled with an apology.

Prosecutors challenged Kozak's claim of accidental spending, while Catholics4Change is supporting legal action against him.


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