Former Rapid City priest indictment related to $150K theft of donations

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - A former Rapid City Catholic priest is hit with a federal indictment.

Marcin Garbacz, a former Catholic priest in the Rapid City Diocese, is accused of stealing $150,000 in church donations.

The federal grand jury charged Marcin Garbacz with wire fraud, money laundering and transportation of stolen money.

The indictment lays out what federal prosecutors say happened; starting with his time at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Faith where he was removed in July of 2012 in part because of his financial mismanagement of the parish. Garbacz was then assigned to parishes in Rapid City.

Beginning in July of 2012, and continuing until about April of 2018, Garbacz allegedly devised a scheme to steal from the parishes and deposit the money in his own account.

Garbacz is accused -- starting in July of 2012 -- of stealing cash donations before they were counted. He reportedly did this by entering the parish at night or in the morning when no one else where there or awake.

The indictment says between 2012 and 2018, parish workers became suspicious of the dwindling cash collection totals at St. Therese parish in Rapid City. They started using tamper-proof bags and installed a video surveillance system.

Garbacz is accused of getting his own identical tamper proof bags, taking cash and then switching the bags. When the parish checked the video surveillance, they discovered it had been turned off or there were technical problems.

That’s when the parish installed two additional surveillance cameras that Garbacz did not know about; reportedly recording him taking the cash. Garbacz admitted the theft to the bishop at that time and was sent to a treatment center run by the Catholic Church.

During the time of the theft, Garbacz is accused of making cash deposits into his personal account of more than $150,000. Since then, the diocese's cash collections increased dramatically.

The former priest reportedly was still moving stolen donations through this year.

According to the indictment, Garbacz closed his Black Hills Federal account in July of 2018, getting a cashier's check for $15,379. Five days later he deposited that in a St. Louis bank. From July to October 2018, he is accused of making seven deposits in that account, totaling $39,000.

That account was closed in January 2019; with Garbacz getting a $50,000 cashier's check that was then deposited in a Kent, Wash., bank account.

After being contacted by a federal agent about the investigation in May, Garbacz is said to have withdrawn that $50,000 from the Washington bank.

When he was arrested May 10 at the Seattle airport, Garbacz had $10,500. He was scheduled for a one-way flight to Poland.

A federal judge in Seattle has ordered that Garbacz be returned to South Dakota as soon as possible.