Man allegedly posing as priest for years caught in bogus Pope trip scam

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LOS ANGELES – A alleged fake priest who has been active in California since the 90s has finally been caught.

One of Edwin Mena’s latest cons was organizing a sham trip to the east coast to see Pope Francis, the LA Times reports.

Authorities say two-dozen people signed up for the trip and each paid the 59-year-old between $500 and $1000.

“He used us, he stole from us, and that’s it,” Michelle Rodriguez, one victim, said.

Erwin Mena is accused of impersonating a Catholic priest and defrauding parishioners. (CNN)

Erwin Mena is accused of impersonating a Catholic priest and defrauding parishioners. (CNN)

 

While he was posing as a priest at St. Ignatius of Loyola parish in Highland Park beginning in January 2015, he also allegedly tried selling CDs and a book called “Confessions of a Renegade Catholic Priest.”

In June 2015, a pastor at the parish reported Mena to the police, the Times reports.

Church officials told the Times they knew of Mena’s act since the 1990s, but every time they were on his trail, he would “disappear.” He was also reported in San Bernardino, Stockton, Fresno, and Orange County.

Mena was finally arrested Tuesday on suspicion of grand theft. He was charged with 22 felonies and 8 misdemeanors, according to the criminal complaint.

The archdiocese has reimbursed some victims and plans to reimburse more after the case is closed, according to the Times. One marriage by Mena was celebrated again and worshipers who received sacraments are able to receive them again.