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Police: Priest used church money on male escorts, lavish lifestyle

By Jesse Solomon, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Connecticut priest charged in stealing almost $1.3 million from church
  • Father Kevin Gray allegedly funded a lavish double life
  • It included swanky hotels and male escorts, police said
  • It happened between June 2003 and March 2010

(CNN) -- To his congregants, he lived the humble existence of a pastor.

But a high-flying Connecticut priest was charged this week with first-degree larceny in the theft of almost $1.3 million from his church's coffers to fund a lavish double life that included swanky hotels and male escorts, said Capt. Chris Corbett of the Waterbury Police Department in Connecticut.

Father Kevin Gray, 64, a former pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Waterbury, allegedly embezzled money from the church over the course of seven years.

He used it to pay for fancy restaurants, clothing, vacations, hotels, a New York City apartment and a male companion's tuition at Harvard University, according to an affidavit obtained by CNN affiliate WTIC and filed with the Connecticut Superior Court.

The affidavit says that between June 2003 and March 2010, Gray spent about $205,000 at high-end restaurants, $132,000 in hotel stays and $85,000 at clothing stores. While in New York City, he frequented the Waldorf Astoria, Omni Berkshire, and the W Hotel Times Square, among other posh hotels, the affidavit states.

He also allegedly shopped at high-end retailers including Barneys, Armani and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Along with expensive taste, Gray allegedly kept company with a number of male escorts, and allowed some to have credit cards in their name on his account.

One escort, Islagar Labrada, allegedly charged more than $49,000 to the account.

"Some items Mr. Labrada charged included a stay at the Sheraton in Buena Vista, Florida, storage facilities, computers, computer software, cell phones, anti-aging creams, artwork, Louis Vuitton stores, a home alarm system and bicycles," the affidavit reads. "Mr Labrada also charged $8,864.69 to Crunch Fitness Gym for membership fees."

Another man, Weirui Zhong, who told police he met Gray in Central Park in 2005, said Gray paid for his rented apartment in New York, a piano, dogs and Harvard University tuition since 2008, according to the affidavit.

Zhong told authorities that when he pressed Gray about why he was always paying him with checks from Sacred Heart Church, Gray told him that he won big cases as an attorney, and that he put all his live savings into the church account.

He also lied to Zhong and his parishioners that he was suffering from cancer, the affidavit says.

"Gray became very bitter with the church starting in 2001 when he was transferred to a parish in New Hartford while his mother was dying in New Haven," according to the affidavit. "Mr. Gray stated that when he started in 2003, he began taking the money because he felt the Church owed it to him."

His official salary over those seven years totaled just over $184,000, or almost $27,000 dollars a year.

According to the affidavit, Gray scammed an additional $221,000 in 2005 by signing an agreement with Wireless Capital Partners, a communications company based in Los Angeles, California, to allow a wireless antenna to be placed in the church, though doing so was strictly prohibited.

Gray's scheme came to light after a routine audit of the church's finances by the Archdiocese of Hartford found numerous accounting discrepancies.

"At the financial level, the Archdiocese continues to work with the parish to improve its financial controls and to address issues arising from the situation such as insurance coverage and outstanding indebtedness," the Archdiocese said in a statement. "At the spiritual level, we continue to pray for healing and consolation for the parish family as it moves forward, and for guidance and reconciliation for Father Gray."