Catholic churches in Dallas are on alert after sightings of a fake priest.
“He went by the name ‘Father Martin’,” Katy Kiser, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Dallas said. “We know that he at least visited six locations here in the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. Each of those locations, he was able to access public areas. It was just one place in which he went to an area that was not available for the public.”
The imposter is wanted in Houston for theft.
According to the Houston Police Department, the man stole cash from St. Thomas More Catholic Church on Oct. 27. Staff told investigators the man claimed to be visiting clergy from Chicago. He allegedly asked for access to the rectory after he forgot his keys in one of the rooms.
The man was given access and once inside, and approximately 30 minutes later, was seen getting into a vehicle parked nearby. The employee told police the fake priest took cash; however, police did not specify the amount.
That same man was spotted in Dallas days before. According to the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, an employee made a report about a suspicious man on Oct. 25.
“There were a series of visits at different parishes throughout the Diocese of Dallas,” Kiser said.
According to the director of security and emergency management for the diocese, the man used the same approach to try to access private property. The employees, however, were not convinced.
“They realized what the situation it didn’t feel right. And so, they spoke up,” Kiser said. “If a visiting clergy person comes to our dioceses from another location, they come with a certain criteria, certain credentials. Usually they come with a suitability letter, which means they’re in good standing with the Catholic Church and within their diocese. And in each of these situations, he didn’t appear to have what we needed to verify who he was.”
Although the man did gain access to a private area on the second floor of a church, Kiser said nothing was stolen as all doors were locked.
“There are areas where you’ll find the doors will be locked that you have to go through an extra set of security measures to access certain areas of a church. And that was the case,” Kiser said. “But he never took anything from us because we had people that questioned what he was doing at our diocese. And we want people to know that we are all about love thy neighbor, but we’re also about questioning when something doesn’t feel right.”
According to Houston police, the fake priest has outstanding warrants in California and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the director of security and emergency management for the diocese in Dallas said the man has also been spotted in churches in Oregon, Cincinnati, North Dakota, California, and Ohio.