HAMMOND, IND. -- A Roman Catholic monsignor faces trial today on federal charges that he joined forces with labor union officers and a Florida-based syndicate to skim profits from a $2 million-a-year bingo game.
Monsignor John F. Morales, pastor to a 1,700-family parish, was indicted last year on charges of perjury, conspiracy to defraud the government, falsifying income tax returns and operating an illegal bingo game.
The charges allege Morales and others conspired to create the illusion of a church-sponsored charity benefit while raking in $100,000 a night and depositing as little as $100.
Federal prosecutors have refused to discuss the case. And the 50-page indictment does not make clear who profited from the games played at a United Steelworkers union hall in neighboring Gary for nearly three years, sometimes by 1,200 people a night.
Bishop Norbert F. Gaughan of the Gary Diocese defended Morales in a statement that called the priest a "faithful servant" of the church who was victimized by overzealous prosecutors.
Others facing trial today are Seymour Klein, 61, and Louis Del Grosso, 71, both of South Miami, Fla., who are charged with setting up the games and obstructing the Internal Revenue Service. Phillip Cyprian, a former president of United Steelworkers Local 1014, and Leroy V. Williams, 64, of Gary, a former local official, face related charges.