Warren County priest answers to suspected sins in courtPosted: Updated:
(09/21/06) BELVIDERE ? A Warren County priest who usually stands before a congregation stood before a judge Thursday to answer to theft charges.
Prosecutors say the Reverend Robert Ascolese stole $600,000 from St. Joseph?s Church in Washington Borough. According to investigators, Ascolese stole the money by raising money for raffle tickets. However, they say the prize money for the raffles was awarded to completely fictional people. A grand jury handed down a 32-count indictment against Ascolese Tuesday in connection with the accusations.
Ascolese claims everything was done ?fairly and squarely.? He says his accountant will prove the money was properly spent. Ascolese was responsible for the church and its school, which closed down this summer due to a lack of funding. Family and friends pitched in to raise the priest?s $7,500 bail. If convicted, Ascolese could spend up to 10 years in prison.