Rodis Upcoming Trial On Embezzling Counts $1 Mil

An upcoming trial against a former priest accused of stealing from two Catholic parishes caught our attention. The internal authoritarian governance structure of the WCG association has been compared to that of the Catholic church hierarchy, and some of the constitutional legal arguments advanced on behalf of the priest have some surprising similarities to those advanced on behalf of Herbert Armstrong.

A judge has ruled the required constitutional separation of church and state doesn't mean the government can't prosecute charges. A similar argument was made in the defense of the WCG during the receivership proceedings, which had real potential for criminal charges to be filed against WCG corporate officers and church association executives.

Judge Timothy K. Sanner denied a request filed on behalf of a former church pastor to have embezzlement charges against him thrown out for constitutional reasons.

Former priest Rodney L. Rodis, 52, is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 29 on 10 counts of embezzling money donated to Immaculate Conception and St. Jude's Catholic churches while he was pastor of the Louisa County parishes in Virginia.

Rodis' defense lawyer, John R. "Jack" Maus, filed a motion to dismiss the charges, claiming that prosecuting Rodis for misusing church money amounted to an illegal intrusion of the state government into church business. Does that 1979 constitutional red herring sound familiar?

Judge Sanner disagreed with the defense motion. "This court sees no reason why members of the diocese . . . should not be able to resort to the courts," for criminal prosecution, he said. The judge likened the matter to legal jurisdiction that states or the federal government maintains over such matters as polygamy, which is against the law, or the use of banned substances for religious rituals.

The First Amendment to the Constitution bans the government from settling issues within churches that would require interpretation of faith or doctrine. Nothing in the embezzlement case would require secular authorities to wade through such a "religious thicket," Judge Sanner said.

Rodis was pastor of the two churches for 12 years before retiring in 2006 for health reasons. In the fall of that year, a suspicious donation deposit led to a criminal investigation and charges that he diverted for personal use as much as $1 million raised during major capital campaigns for both churches.

In a related federal case that concluded in February, he was sentenced to a five-year prison term for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. He was ordered to pay back $591,484. Evidence in that case revealed that Rodis wired money to the Philippines, where his family purchased property.

Maus called to the witness stand Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, head of the Richmond Diocese, and probed the administrative ties between the diocese and local priests for an accusation of misappropriating of church money.

When questioned by Rusty McGuire, Louisa's deputy commonwealth's attorney, DiLorenzo said he supported the criminal case. He also said church leaders who review wrongdoing have an obligation to turn certain matters over to secular authorities for prosecution.

"There's no question about that," the bishop said. "I have a reporting responsibility."

Investigators found that Rodis was married and living with his wife and children near Fredericksburg while head of the two churches, flouting a centuries-old Catholic prohibition against priests having sex or marrying.

But now parishioners are trying to reconcile the saint they thought Rodis was with the sinner authorities say he is. In federal court earlier this year, Rodis entered into a guilty plea agreement and was convicted of multiple counts of money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud.

He was sentenced to 63 months in prison on those federal convictions.

If convicted by jury on the upcoming Commonwealth of Virginia embezzlement charges, he could face up to 20 years on each of the 13 state counts.

Unlike Father Rodis, Herbert Armstrong escaped being charged with financial fraud by refusing to have his books examined, refusing to testify, and spending literally millions of dollars on an essentially frivolous, birdbrained first amendment legal defense strategy. When that dodo argument didn't fly in the courts, he turned to the legislature to put in the fix. And unlike Father Rodis, he had "new truth" revealed regarding "God's law of divorce and remarriage". No one is the in the WCG could legitimately marry or remarry without grueling sexual investigation and selective approval by Herbert's ministry. When the "new truth" was revealed to Herbert, he decided to marry a divorcee old enough to be his granddaughter; then divorcing Ramona was no problem, when the real truth about Herbert's past became an inconvenient truth.


January 10, 2007 - Retired priest Rodney Lee Rodis is indicted on a felony embezzlement charge.

  • He is accused of embezzling money from St. Judes Catholic Church in Mineral and The Immaculate Conception Church in Bumpass. Representatives of the diocese of Richmond say Rodis took more than $600,000 over five years before retiring in May 2006.
  • Rodis' bond is set for $100,000. He is scheduled for another bond hearing the next day.

January 11, 2007 - Bond for Rodis is reduced to $10,000.

January 14, 2007 - Court documents list 50-year-old Rodis as living with a wife and three children in Fredericksburg, but it is unclear whether Rodis is the children's father.

  • Parishioners, the Richmond diocese and Rodis' neighbors all say they are shocked by the news.
  • The diocese suspends Rodis.

January 15, 2007 - Rodis is free on bond. He denies reports that he's married but does not say if the three children living with him are his daughters.

  • If convicted, he could face 20 years in prison.

January 17, 2007 - State police investigators say the embezzled funds could be $1 million.

January 18, 2007 - In court, Rodis says he had not retained an attorney but lawyer John Maus appears with Rodis in court.

  • Maus tells judge that Rodis estimated he would need two to three weeks to make arrangements to retain counsel.
  • Rodis is set to appear in court on February 26 with representation or proof that he has retained representation.

January 20, 2007 - NBC29 learns Rodis wrote an email to parishioners at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Mineral.

  • In the email, Rodis writes: "I'm sure that at this time you are aware of what has been going on...This is to express my heartfelt apology for the trouble this might caused you."
  • He continues: "Whatever the Chuch May decide regarding my case, I will fully accept the consequences. Please include me in your prayers."

February 26, 2007 - Rodis appears in court to retain his attorney, John Maus.

  • In court, Maus says they are in the process of working with the state and may be in a position to enter a plea in two weeks on March 12.
  • Rodis' alleged wife and children have relocated to New Mexico. Maus says that the four women living in the house are considered "family."

March 12, 2007 - At his arraignment, Rodis faces 12 more embezzlement charges, making the total 13.

  • If convicted, he could face up to 20 years on each of the 13 counts.
  • NBC reports they've found court records listing Rodis and Joyce Sillador-Rodis as husband and wife on a deed of trust for a mortgage on a house they shared.

March 30, 2007 - Rodis waives his right to a jury trial and pleads not guilty to 12 counts of embezzlement.

  • His bond is set for $25,000.
  • His trial date is set for October 1.

May 21, 2007 - Rodis' bond is revoked after leaving the state to visit a sick relative. He will be held in jail until his October trial.

August 9, 2007 - Hearing scheduled for August 27 on whether to dismiss 13 embezzlement charges against Rodis.

  • Rodis' attorney claims Rodis should not be prosecuted in court if he mishandled money donated to the two parishes. Instead, he says the Catholic Diocese of Richmond should handle the case.

August 21, 2007 - Rodis indicted by federal grand jury. He now faces federal mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering charges.

  • Rodis is held without bond at the regional jail in Orange.

September 6, 2007 - Rodis pleads not guilty to federal fraud and money laundering charges.

  • His trial is scheduled for October 25 in Richmond.

October 26, 2007 - Rodis pleads guilty to embezzlement.

  • His federal sentencing is set for February 21, 2008

When available, Ambassador Reports plans to report on the results of the upcoming trial on state charges.

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