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'Sex-abuse victim' targets 158 priests in lucrative scam

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Photo: Luca Cinacchio
10:28 CET+01:00
A man who claims to have been abused by priests as a child was jailed on Wednesday for fronting a four-man gang that swindled 158 clerics out of hundreds of thousands of euros.

The swindler-in-chief, named only as Michel, was handed a four-year prison sentence at the Paris Criminal Court for an operation that netted almost €300,000, MetroNews reports

In a well-honed scam, the 59-year-old ringleader started targeting elderly priests in 2009 and asking them for money in the name of Christian charity. He solicited the priests' trust by calling them by their first names or using ruses like telling them they had baptized his latest child. 

He sometimes told them he had just got out of jail and needed the money to get back on his feet again. 

Michel, who has a previous criminal record, soon brought an accomplice into the fray. This man, Jacky, initially helped with cashing money orders and cheques. 

But when Michel wound up behind bars in 2010, Jacky took over the scam wholesale, mimicking Michel's methods and gleaning information from the notes his crime-master had kept on the parishes he'd already done over. 

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Overwhelmed by the success of the scam, Jacky brought in two more helpers, Denis and Karim, to help funnel the ill-gotten funds. Jacky told judges he had no problem with priests but did have a serious gambling problem. The court sentenced him to two years in jail, while Denis and Karim were each given six-month suspended sentences. 

Michel's lawyer said his client had taken his sex-abuse accusations from his diocese of Troyes all the way to the Vatican. A Church inquest found that the priests in question were now deceased. Michel said he had lost his lust for vengeance and had reimbursed victims to the tune of €24,000.

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