(PatriotWise.com) — The Catholic Diocese of Stockton, California, is warning parishioners in Modesto to be on the lookout for Spanish-speaking conmen posing as priests from Mexico, the Christian Post reported.
The men are allegedly charging Catholics hundreds of dollars to teach classes, issue certificates, and celebrate the sacraments. Modesto Catholics are being urged to call 911 if they have encountered either of these men.
According to a press release from the diocese, the conmen are intimidating those who question their authority or identities, often threatening to sue for defamation.
The conmen have used the identities of legitimate Mexican priests, Bishop Raúl Gómez González and Father José Adán González Estrada, who serve with the Archdiocese of Toluca.
Stockton Diocese spokesperson Lourdes Arvizu told Telemundo that the con artists came to the diocese’s attention after receiving reports from individuals about visiting priests. The parishioners contacted the diocese to find out if the priests were granted permission from the diocese to provide the sacraments.
Father Jorge Rosa, a spokesman for the archbishop of Toluca, confirmed with Telemundo that the two priests whose identities have been used are still in Mexico, ministering to the people of Toluca.
According to Lourdes Arvizu, the fake priests are charging parishioners $600 for a home visit and another $70 for each child they bless. The men are also requesting the birth certificates of those who pay them, likely to use the documents for identity theft or human trafficking, Arvizu said.
The diocese alerted law enforcement about the scam; however, police said the victims of the imposters will have to file complaints to initiate an investigation into the fake priests.
The diocese asked that victims of the crime contact 911 to report it to the police and assured them that the police would not question them about their immigration status.
Copyright 2023, PatriotWise.com