Tulare priest charged with embezzlement
The former leader of St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Tulare is being charged with embezzlement, officials from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno announced Wednesday.
The Tulare County District Attorney filed the charges against the Rev. Ignacio Villafan after being contacted by the diocese, which discovered financial discrepancies under Villafan’s watch, officials from the church say.
Villafan was removed from his position at St. Rita’s in 2012 after the discrepancies were discovered. Teresa Dominguez, chancellor for the diocese, said Father Ivan Hernandez took over for Villafan in late 2013. A résumé provided by Dominguez shows Villafan previously worked at St. Anne’s Church in Porterville, St. John the Evangelist Parish in Tipton and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cutler.
Dominguez referred all questions about the case to the Tulare County DA’s office. Officials did not immediately return phone messages left by The Bee on Wednesday.
In a statement, diocese officials said the church maintains an internal financial reporting and monitoring system to help detect financial misconduct. Clergy and staff are also trained to prevent fraud, officials said.