BRICK, N.J. — A Catholic priest is accused of embezzling nearly $1 million in church donations to pay a male prostitute and buy a $264,000 home here for the two of them to live in, according to a lawsuit filed by parishioners.
The complaint, filed Thursday in the Supreme Court of New York, alleges the Rev. Peter Miqueli of New York City funneled church money for his personal use, which included paying a prostitute $1,000 a session to act out his “sexual fantasies.” The prostitute, identified as Keith Crist in court papers, engaged in a bondage-sadism-masochism relationship in which he role-played as the “sexual master” and made Miqueli the “slave,” the complaint states.
Miqueli, a pastor at St. Frances De Chantal parish, could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit also names the Archdioceses of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Crist, and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The Archdiocese did not return a request for comment, but a spokesman told the New York Post that it “has … taken these allegations seriously and has been investigating them.” Crist could not be located for comment.
Miqueli allegedly took donations from two different parishes he presided over since 2003, the suit claims. Court documents say he used the collection-plate cash to purchase a house in Brick in 2009 for about $264,000.
No one answered the door when a reporter visited the single-story home on Friday as a crush of reporters and TV camera operators saturated the working-class neighborhood.
The 34-page lawsuit claims, in detail, how Miqueli allegedly spent the stolen church dollars taken from a thrift store and parishioners’ donations: Miquel frequently took trips to Italy and Florida, spent as much as $60,000 in 2012 to buy illegal drugs to consume with Crist and pays $1,075 a month to rent a Park Avenue apartment for Crist.
Miquel’s salary as priest, meanwhile, has remained below $31,000, court papers state.
“This lawsuit seeks to finally put an end to this truly sinful conduct so that the St. Frances De Chantal Parish (in the Bronx) can regain the strength, spirituality and faith it once had before Father Miqueli arrived,” the complaint said.
Miquel served as the priest at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church on Roosevelt Island from 2003 to 2012. He was then appointed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan as the pastor at St. Frances De Chantal.
The suit says the Archdiocese failed to supervise Miqueli and was “negligent, careless and reckless.”
Parishioners alleged in the case that they had long-complained of Miqueli’s chronic absenteeism and his shoddy money management. Miqueli kept the cash collections in tote bags and failed to keep a tally, the suit claimed.
A church receptionist at the parish said services were continuing as scheduled Friday.
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