Priest Allegedly Spent $US40,000 On Candy Crush Using Church’s Credit Card

Priest Allegedly Spent $US40,000 On Candy Crush Using Church’s Credit Card

A Catholic priest in the U.S. town of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, allegedly used a church credit card to spend over $US40,000 on “power-ups” in mobile games Mario Kart Tour and Candy Crush over a three-year span.

As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, on April 25, Reverend Lawrence Kozak, 51, was charged with theft and other related crimes according to an affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. He has since been released after posting the $US250,000 bail. His attorney is reviewing the charges.

According to investigators, an accountant working at Kozak’s church discovered “an astronomical amount of Apple transactions” on the church’s credit card statements while reviewing its finances in 2022. The purchases reportedly began in September 2019, shortly after Rev. Kozak joined the parish, and ended in July 2022. Allegedly, the Apple ID that purchased content in mobile games like Candy Crush and Mario Kart Tour was registered to Kozak. Detectives also discovered that an Amazon account connected to the priest had used church funds to purchase items like a Fire Tablet for Kozak’s goddaughter. The gifts included a note that was signed by “Uncle Larry.”

Other records showed that Kozak had, at one point, used his personal bank account to pay $US10,000 off the church’s credit card bill.

Kozak was interviewed by police in 2022

Detectives reportedly interviewed Kozak in 2022, and the priest told them that he was seeking out counselling for his mobile game addiction. He clarified with investigators that he had not spent the money on gambling, but instead spent thousands of dollars on items to “power-up” and gain an advantage in various games.

Kozak allegedly denied intentionally using the church’s credit card for in-app purchases, claiming that the cards were already connected to his accounts and phone to pay church-authorised bills. But he did tell detectives that it was possible he had accidentally used church funds to buy in-game power-ups, saying he wasn’t a “details guy” and that he was sorry he had “let it get to this point.”

The priest was removed from his position at the church in November 2022 after an internal investigation into Kozak’s spending revealed his gaming addiction and use of church funds.

After he was removed, he sent an $US8,000 check labeled “parish reimbursements” to the new leader of the church. In a note included with the payment, Kozak reportedly apologized to the new priest for his “mistake” and planned to pay back the church all the money he owed.

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