Priest Imprisoned for Gambling Away $1m

A Catholic priest from Ontario, Canada has been jailed for two years for defrauding nearly CA$1 million (US$760,000) from desperate refugees to fund a self-destructive gambling habit, according to recent news reports.

Father Amer Saka is unlikely to ever be able to pay back the $1 million he embezzled. As a result, he could be facing further charges in the future as well. The 61 year old former priest of St. Joseph’s Chaldean in London, Ontario has also been ordered to pay damages to the 33 refugee families from whom he received the money. The priest stole funds that had been designated to a resettlement program intended to bring refugees safely into Canada.

The court dealing with Saka’s case heard that due to the priests age and tenuous future job prospects, the full amount embezzled will be unlikely to be paid back to the families to which it was designated. His jail sentence will also prevent him from exploring the top 5 Crown Oaks day bets in 2019, as well as any other wagering-related opportunities.

Saka Given 15 Years to Repay

The presiding judge originally suggested giving Father Saka 45 years over which to repay the money. This would have made him 106 years old at the time of his final instalment. However, prosecutors deemed this decision unfair and angled for a 15 year repayment window instead.

The shorter period will require the priest to raise a whopping $62,433 per year for the next 15 years. If he fails to do so, he will face another possible prison term. Saka’s attorney Iryna Revutsky told the court that the priest had developed a gambling addiction due to undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. She argued that the PTSD had been caused by the trauma of witnessing the murder of his parents in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians have long been persecuted, and this only intensified after the Ba’ath Party – headed up by Saddam Hussein – collapsed back in 2003. According to Revutsky, Saka has made great progress in dealing with his PTSD, despite the past 3 years being exceptionally difficult for him.

She praised the judge for the leniency of his sentencing, saying that he offered a careful decision that took into account the fact that Saka is a decent man who made a mistake due to unresolved trauma.

People of God Cross the Law

Interestingly, Father Saka is not the only religious man to be jailed recently due to gambling-related crime. Pastor Thai John Nguyen of Stockton, California, has just been charged with illicit gambling and weapon ownership.

The pastor says he assumed the gambling den he was running was actually a thrift store and video arcade. However, when police raided the establishment they discovered unlicensed gambling machines, a loaded AR-15 gun, 2 semi-automatics, 1 revolver, cash amounting to $3,600, and body armour.

A few years back in 2017, Pastor Gregory Bolusan also found himself in trouble with the law after attempting to rob Penn National’s M Casino no less than 3 times in under 2 months. He was arrested and charged with 3 counts of burglary, a count of attempted robbery, and 2 counts of robbery. Then, in December, the Los Angeles Archdiocese decided not to lay charges against 2 nuns who embezzled $500,000 from the St. James Catholic Church for the purpose of a Vegas gambling spree.