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updated: 6/9/2011 3:01 PM

Roselle priest pleads guilty on theft charge

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  • John Regan

    John Regan


A Roman Catholic priest accused of stealing more than $400,000 from his former Roselle parish to feed a gambling addiction pleaded guilty Thursday to felony theft.

Rev. John Regan was facing a 21-count criminal indictment alleging theft, money laundering and continuing a financial crimes enterprise in connection with his former position as pastor at St. Walter Catholic Church.

But with the start of his trial days away, the 47-year-old pleaded guilty to a single count of theft over $100,000 and one count of continuing a financial crimes enterprise. Regan could be sentenced from four to 15 years on each charge, but he also is eligible for probation. DuPage Circuit Judge John Kinsella is expected to sentence Regan in August.

Prosecutors said they will be seeking a prison term for Regan and restitution of roughly $410,000.

State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement that Regan pleaded guilty to "very serious" charges. "He admitted he lined his pockets with money stolen from those who entrusted him with their spiritual well-being," Berlin said.

Both Regan and defense attorney John "Jack" Donahue declined to comment after Thursday's court appearance. Donahue said previously that Regan had no prior criminal history and was taking steps to address his problems.

The Diocese of Joliet removed Regan as head of St. Walter in July 2008, after an internal audit uncovered accounting irregularities in the parish books. Regan was indicted in February 2009 after the Diocese turned over the audit results to the DuPage County state's attorney.

Authorities said Regan, who began serving as pastor at St. Walter in June 2006, took more than $400,000 between August 2006 and July 2008 to feed a riverboat gambling addiction.

Regan accepted cash and checks written by parishioners as church offerings and then deposited the money into an account he opened without the knowledge of church. He then used money from that account for personal expenses such as credit card payments and ATM cash withdrawals at riverboat casinos, officials said. He also wrote checks to himself.

Prosecutor Helen Kapas said records from the Elgin Grand Victoria and Harrah's in Joliet show Regan gambled away at least $125,000 at those riverboat casinos during a time when his church salary was about $25,000 a year.

The Diocese did its internal audit after bank officials noticed account irregularities and raised concerns.

Regan has been free on bond from DuPage County jail since Feb. 18, 2009. His $1 million bond at the time of his arrest 10 days earlier was lowered to $100,000. Before turning himself in, Regan received treatment for a gambling addiction at an out-of-state counseling center.