LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A 59-year-old man accused of posing as a Catholic priest will be arraigned Wednesday on charges of stealing funds from parishioners at two churches in Los Angeles.
According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Erwin Mena has been charged with 19 counts of grand theft, eight counts of misdemeanor petty theft and one felony count each of perjury, procuring and filing false documents and practicing medicine without a license.
Mena allegedly posed as a priest on several occasions while visiting St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Highland Park and St. Bernard Catholic Church in Glassell Park, dating back to October 2014.
Police said he is accused of swindling parishioners by selling tickets for a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis during his visit to the U.S. in September 2015.
According to prosecutors, however, Mena never made arrangements for the trip to take place. In total, he stole about $53,000 from churchgoers.
Authorities began investigating the case in June after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reported Mena to the Los Angeles Police Department.
While posing as a Catholic priest, Mena performed Mass, confessions and a wedding.
According to the LAPD, he was taken into custody in Elysian Park on Tuesday.
Mena is expected to make his first court appearance later today at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. During the arraignment, prosecutors will recommend for his bail to be set at $100,000.
If convicted as charged, Mena faces a possible maximum sentence of 21 years in state prison, which would be served in county jail.