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GREEK: Priests arrested for forged payroll scam

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Two priests responsible for managing the payroll for clergy in the Thessaly and Farsala diocese have been arrested on charges of embezzlement and fraud to the amount of 690,000 euros in the first half of 2012. The two are accused of tampering with the amounts recorded on payroll documents in order to rake in large sums on their own behalf.
Two priests strayed away from the path of God and straight down that of crime, authorities have revealed. (file photo)
The two priests, aged 36 and 38 years old, respectively, were arrested in Farsala on Wednesday by Larisa police.

The charges against them include forgery, fraud, embezzlement and extracting false certifications.

Their activities were reported by the finance ministry's financial review board for Thessaly, which found suspicious looking intervention and alteration of sums in the documentation for the Farsala municipality clergy during an inspection carried out two weeks earlier.

Another inspection on June 25 showed that the two priests in charge of the payroll had submitted a forged statement to the Farsala tax office, on which the state's share of payroll spending had been increased to 28,864 euros instead of 8,864. Police then lay in wait for the two priests at the bank branch where the money would be withdrawn, catching them in the act of taking the sum of 28,864 euro, of which only 8,864 euro was destined to be used for priests salaries.

Police confiscated the additional 20,000 euro, as well as a personal stamp found on the 38-year-old priest and a stamp of the Thessaly diocese that were used to collect the full amount.

A search of the 36-year-old priest's home also revealed a number of original payroll documents. These showed that the two suspects had managed to embezzle a total of 690,000 euro using the same method since the start of the year.