American priest stole nearly $ 300,000 church money

Andrey Kovalenko, former priest from Bedford, Ohio, is accused of embezzling nearly $ 300,000 in church funds intended to serve his parishioners.

According to the US Department of Justice, the defendant is a Russian Orthodox priest and was employed as the Director of the Shrine of Mariapoch (SOM) in Burton from May 2014 to June 2015. In addition, from January 2015 to July 2018, the defendant was employed as the Administrator and Pastor of Saint John Hungarian Byzantine Catholic Church (SJHBCC) in Solon and Saint Eugene Byzantine Catholic Church (SEBCC) in Bedford Heights.

Due to his church position, the defendant had access to several bank accounts, checks and debit cards associated with the religious institutions that he managed.

According to the indictment, the priest stole approximately $ 35,000 from SOM bank for personal expenses from May 2014 to June 2015.

Moreover, he embezzled about approximately $ 258,000 from the church’s bank accounts from January 2015 to June 2018.

Kovalenko’s lawyer Russell Bensing declined to comment.

As a result of the defendant’s actions, Saint Eugene Byzantine Catholic Church was closed due to its financial condition.

After Kovalenko was fired from the Eparchy of Parma, he continued to use the St. John’s Church debit card while in Georgia and Florida for personal expenses totaling about $ 2,000.

US officials said Kovalenko is a Russian native who emigrated to the United States in 1996.