Prosecutors are considering charges against a Rapid City priest who reportedly admitted stealing church donations.
The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office said the Rapid City Police Department has recommended misdemeanor theft charges against the Rev. Marcin Garbacz, a 39-year-old priest with the Rapid City Diocese.
Garbacz “has admitted being responsible for the theft” of cash offerings at St. Therese the Little Flower Parish, said police spokesman Brendyn Medina. Police began looking into the theft allegations on June 14 following a report from the diocese, Medina said.
Police recommended charges of first-degree petty theft, an offense that involves amounts greater than $400 but less than $1,000. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in county jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
The county’s chief deputy state’s attorney, Lara Roetzel, said prosecutors usually make charging decisions within a week to 10 days of receiving the police recommendation.
Medina said church thefts involving insiders are unusual in Rapid City. He described all the parties involved in the St. Therese case as “highly cooperative.”
The diocese publicized the investigation into Garbacz at all masses on Saturday and Sunday “to be transparent” and because people were asking why the priest hadn’t been given a new assignment as expected, said the Rev. Michel Mulloy, vicar general of the diocese.
Garbacz has been suspended by the bishop, underwent psychological evaluation and is now engaged in an intensive treatment program, Mulloy said. He declined to reveal how the parish discovered the alleged thefts, citing the ongoing criminal case.
Garbacz, a Polish immigrant, was ordained in Rapid City. For six years, he had been chaplain of the Rapid City Catholic School System, which includes St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary and St. Thomas More middle school and high school.
Mulloy said that in his 39 years in the diocese, this is the first church theft case he is aware of that involves an employee.