The rector of a Philadelphia Archdiocese retirement home for aging priests was charged Wednesday with embezzling more than a half-million dollars from the facility to cover his tastes for fancy dinners, Philadelphia Pops concerts, and local casinos.
Federal prosecutors accused Msgr. William A. Dombrow, 77, of siphoning funds for nearly nine years from a private account set up to support Villa St. Joseph, the facility in Darby Borough that also houses priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.
Much of the money that flowed into that account came from the life insurance payouts of priests who had died while residing there or bequests from the estates of parishioners who intended to support the facility.
The theft was discovered, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella said, after the bank that administered the account flagged several suspicious payments and deductions at Harrah’s Casino in Chester and notified the Archdiocese of Philadelphia last year.
“He was the one who had sole access to this account and misappropriated the funds for his personal use,” Rotella said. “He used it to fund a more lavish lifestyle for himself.”
Dombrow was charged with four counts of wire fraud by way of a criminal information instead of an indictment – a sign that typically means a defendant has already agreed to plead guilty.
He could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but his lawyer, Coley O. Reynolds, said Dombrow remains rector at Villa St. Joseph and has cooperated since the start of the investigation.
A spokesman for the archdiocese said that Dombrow’s administrative duties at Villa St. Joseph, including the handling of finances, were restricted after the theft was discovered last summer.
“The monsignor is remorseful and ashamed of his conduct,” Reynolds said. “He’s done a lot of great things for the people of the parish and the archdiocese.”
Dombrow is a recovering alcoholic who devoted his time to helping other priests with struggles with alcohol. He previously led the Archdiocesan Priests’ Committee on Alcoholism and a center for those seeking religious-based addiction treatment.
Among the funds he is accused of embezzling was $14,410 left to Villa St. Joseph by the Rev. Francis P. Rogers, who had numerous sexual-abuse complaints lodged against him prior to his death in 2005 — the same year a Philadelphia grand jury issued its report detailing the allegations against him.
Dombrow, too, featured in that grand jury report. He testified before the panel that the archdiocesan officials had failed to notify him in 1997 that a priest it had transferred to the parish he was overseeing had numerous abuse allegations lodged against him.