RAPID CITY, S.D. — A former Rapid City priest accused of stealing $150,000 in church donations pleaded not guilty to 60 charges Wednesday, July 3, according to court records.
Marcin Garbacz pleaded not guilty to 50 counts of wire fraud, nine counts of money laundering and one count of transporting stolen money after being accused of stealing the donations between July 2012 to April 2018. The judge ordered him to remain detained until trial.
Garbacz appeared at the federal court in Rapid City after being booked into the Pennington County Jail June 28 after being transferred from Seattle, where he was arrested May 10 at the airport with a one way ticket to Poland, his home country.
Clergy and members of the Rapid City Diocese are "deeply saddened by the circumstances that surround the charges against Father Marcin Garbacz," the diocese said in a Tuesday statement. "As these legal proceedings begin, we pray for Father Garbacz and all those involved in this process, that justice will be tempered with mercy," Rev. Michel Mulloy, vicar general of the diocese, was quoted as saying.
According Garbacz's indictment, he went to great lengths to conceal his thefts and spent his gains on chalices, money and other artwork.
Church officials slowly grew suspicious over dwindling donation totals and eventually confronted Garbacz with surveillance footage that showed him stealing from a church vault, the indictment says. He was suspended from the ministry in May 2018 and sent by the diocese to a six-month treatment program in St. Louis managed by the Saint Luke Consultation Center, a Catholic center that provides outpatient therapy to clergymen.
In October of that year, he pleaded guilty in state court to first-degree petty theft for stealing donations. The next month, he left St. Louis before completing the treatment program and moved to Seattle against the orders of the bishop.
The diocese said it was unaware of the IRS investigation into Garbacz that led to his more recent federal charges.