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Wexford priest and secretary accused of stealing $1.5 million from Florida church

Police say Fr Richard Murphy "personally benefitted" from funds stolen from parishioners at Holy Cross Catholic Church in the US state

Father Richard Murphy

The late Fr Richard Murphy.

Deborah True

Deborah True

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A Wexford priest and his secretary who once described him as "a fantastic leader," have been accused of stealing $1.5 million from a church in Florida.

Police allege that Fr Richard Murphy "personally benefitted" from funds donated by parishioners at Holy Cross Catholic Church in the US state.

Fr Murphy, who passed away in 2020, and his associate Deborah True are accused of fraudulently depositing nearly $1.5 million of parishioners’ donations into a bank account over a five-year period.

The Vero Beach Police Department in Florida said it had recently concluded a nine-month fraud investigation after being contacted by the Diocese of Palm Beach in December 2021 in regard to a fraudulent bank account and possible misappropriation of funds.

As Fr Murphy had passed away, no criminal investigation was opened against him, but the investigation has resulted in the arrest of Holy Cross Catholic Church’s former parish administrator, Deborah True.

According to Fr Murphy's 2020 obituary, True was Fr Murphy's long-time secretary who later became his caregiver.

“I will miss everything about him," True told VeroNews after Fr Murphy's death in March 2020. Fr Murphy, who was ordained in Co Wexford, had been pastor at Holy Cross for nearly 23 years.

Deborah True

"He was such a fantastic leader," True said. "He cared about the parishioners and they cared about him. He believed we needed to reach out to people in the community whenever there was a need.”

She added: “He really cared about Vero Beach. He was a private person who didn’t like accolades or awards. He did stuff from the heart.”

Vero Beach Police say their investigation revealed that in 2012, True and Fr Murphy opened a bank account in the name of “Holy Cross Catholic Church,” which was hidden from the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach.

Bank records show that nearly $1.5 million of parishioners’ donations were fraudulently deposited into the account since 2015, police said.

Police say True used over $500,000 of those funds to pay off personal lines of credit from 2015 until 2020, and an additional $147,000 was withdrawn from the account and deposited into her personal checking account.

The investigation claims that Fr Murphy also personally benefited from the funds in the account before he passed away.

True turned herself in at the Indian River County Jail on Monday on one count of organised fraud.

She has since been bonded out of jail and is awaiting trial.


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