Joseph McLoone’s alleged scheme was a tricky one.
The 56-year-old pastor used his position at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Downingtown, Pa., to open a secret bank account in 2011, according to charges filed Wednesday by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office. With unbridled access to parish funds, court documents say, he diverted donations and misappropriated fees, moving more than $100,000 into the “St. Joseph Activity Account,” and spent the money on boyfriends, a beach house and fine dining with men he met on dating apps.
The theft went unnoticed for six years, according to court documents reviewed by The Washington Post, but McLoone was arrested on Wednesday and charged with 19 counts, including theft and receiving stolen property.
“Father McLoone held a position of leadership, and his parishioners trusted him to properly handle their generous donations to the church,” said Chester County District Attorney’s Office chief of staff Charles A. Gaza. “Father McLoone violated the trust of the members of St. Joseph for his own personal gain.”
In all, prosecutors allege that McLoone stole $98,405 from the parish “to fund his personal lifestyle,” which included a beach home in Ocean City, N.J., travel and dining, and payments to more than a dozen adult men whom McLoone admitted to meeting on Grindr, a police affidavit of probable cause said.
In early 2018, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia discovered McLoone’s off-the-books account, a violation of archdiocesan procedures. According to chief communications officer Kenneth Gavin, the archdiocese froze the account and launched an investigation into the parish’s financial records.
McLoone admitted to administrators that some of the account’s expenses were “of an inappropriate nature” and, Gavin said in a statement, “were related to relationships with adults that represented a violation of ‘The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries’ established by the archdiocese.”
Soon thereafter, McLoone was placed on administrative leave; St. Joseph Parish did not respond to The Post’s request for a comment.
Attorney Melissa McCafferty, who represents McLoone, told The Post on Thursday that the charges were “based on a lot of suspicion, innuendo and personal feelings about [McLoone’s] personal life, which have nothing to do with a crime being committed.”
Released on $50,000 bail, McLoone is to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 18.