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D.C. man charged with stealing $2.5 million from Catholic Church and pandemic relief money bought yacht and rowhouse, prosecutors say

A District man has been charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $2.1 million in federal coronavirus relief loans and stealing more than $427,000 from the Catholic Church, using the money to buy a yacht, a million-dollar rowhouse and a luxury car, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Kenneth Gaughan, 41, entered a plea of not guilty Tuesday to a 12-count indictment handed up July 22 charging him in an eight-year scheme to embezzle money from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, where he worked as an assistant superintendent and contracting contact for its 95 schools.

Gaughan also made his first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey of Washington after being charged Monday in a criminal complaint with one count each of bank fraud, wire fraud, theft of government funds and money laundering in connection with receiving Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster loans.

Gaughan allegedly used proceeds to buy a 33-foot 2020 Cruisers Yachts 338 CX, a 2020 Kia Stinger that cost $46,000 and a rowhouse in Northeast Washington, prosecutors said in announcing both sets of charges, which were unsealed Tuesday.

“We will not tolerate exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain,” acting U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin of Washington said in a statement.

Gaughan’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Jose German, declined to comment. Prosecutors said authorities seized the boat, the car, Gaughan’s bank accounts and an investment account, and filed a civil forfeiture action against a home he had purchased.

Federal authorities alleged that Gaughan secured loans by applying to Small Business Administration lenders on behalf of multiple companies falsely purporting to register emotional support animals using forged paperwork and bank records.

They alleged that separately, Gaughan faked invoices for anti-bullying and crisis intervention programs meant to serve Catholic schools in Maryland and the District, as well as for software used to send mass messages to parents.

From June 2010 through April 2018, Gaughan arranged for payments to be sent to three companies he controlled using an alias, denying his connection to the archdiocese and knowing they did not provide the services promised, according to charging documents. He had money sent to bank accounts he controlled and withdrew it for personal use, prosecutors charged.

“Mr. Gaughan was so emboldened by deceiving a church for eight years he then, allegedly, turned his deception to the government,” Baltimore FBI Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Boone said.

“During this time, many businesses are feeling effects of the pandemic. . . . Unfortunately, there are greedy individuals who choose to abuse these programs in order to enrich their lifestyle,” added IRS-Criminal Investigation Washington field office Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson.

Gaughan was indicted in September 2018 on charges of embezzling $45,000 from the Catholic-run school by the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland. A federal judge dismissed the case in January after a five-day trial before a jury returned a verdict, ruling that Gaughan should not have been charged in that state because payments for which he was charged were not sent or received there.

The charges unsealed Tuesday were filed in Washington and are being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys from both the District and Maryland.

Paula Gwynn Grant, secretary of communications for the archdiocese, said in an email, “We learned of the indictment and will fully cooperate in the prosecution of the scheme to defraud that was committed against the Archdiocese and, most recently, allegations of such a scheme against the funds created to support small businesses during these difficult times.”

Former assistant Catholic superintendent in Washington archdiocese accused of fraud