Former Greenwich pastor sentenced to prison

Michael Moynihan, the former pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish on North Street, was sentenced to federal prison Monday for hindering a federal investigation relating to his use of more than $300,000 in church funds, including diverting some for his personal expenses.

Mr. Moynihan was sentenced by Senior United States District Judge Ellen Bree Burns in New Haven to five months of imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service and to pay $409,430 in restitution, according to a press release from the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office.

Mr. Moynihan was employed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport from 1993 until he resigned in 2007, and served as the pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Parish during that time. As pastor, his duties included ensuring funds donated to the church by parishioners were used for the benefit of both the parish and the congregation, and informing the Parish Finance Council of the existence of all bank accounts used to deposit money given to the church. It is in this role that he was charged with improperly managing the funds.

When Mr. Moynihan first served as pastor, the parish maintained a Building Fund account that the Finance Council was aware of. In 2002, the Bridgeport Diocese instructed each parish to keep only one operating bank account, which had to be listed on its general ledger. Despite these orders, St. Michael continued to use the Building Fund account without listing it on the ledger. Then, in 2004, Mr. Moynihan opened a bank account with Greenwich Bank and Trust in the name of St. Michael’s that also was not listed on the ledger.

In 2006, the FBI requested information from the diocese as part of a criminal investigation. Authorities say Mr. Moynihan did not reveal the existence of the Building Fund or Greenwich Bank and Trust accounts to the diocese at that time. A review of the accounts showed that approximately $2.1 million provided to St. Michael from 2002 to 2006 was deposited into the two accounts. Although the majority of the funds were used for legitimate parish-related expenditures, roughly $300,000 were used to fund Mr. Moynihan’s personal expenses, including paying off credit card bills and the purchase of a $58,000 boat.

When confronted by the diocese about using church funds for personal use, Mr. Moynihan finally admitted to the existence of the two off-the-books accounts. In an attempt to explain how the funds were used, authorities say Mr. Moynihan gave false and misleading information to diocese accountants and provided them with letters supposedly signed by two people who indicated they’d each received funds from him.

In an interview with the FBI in 2010, Mr. Moynihan told agents he had not forged a signature on one of the letters, though he knew he had signed the person’s name without authority to do so. At this time, he knew a grand jury was investigating his use of parish funds.

Judge Burns ordered the compensation of $409,430 to the diocese for expenses accrued as the result of Mr. Moynihan’s obstructive behavior. On Dec. 8, 2011, Mr. Moynihan pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding. He has been ordered to report to prison on Sept. 3 of this year. While in court for his sentencing, Mr. Moynihan apologized for his actions.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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