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 Minister misuses church funds for gambling

In an Albuquerque Journal piece on November 18, 1998, titled Ex-Pastor: I'll Pay Restitution, "The former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral has promised to pay restitution for church credit card charges and automatic teller machine withdrawals that he used for casino gambling, church officials say.

"The Rev. Thomas Beggane resigned as pastor of Immaculate Heart, the seat of the southern New Mexico Catholic diocese, about six weeks ago. He has acknowledged that he had an addiction to gambling, said Monsignor John Anderson, vicar general of the Diocese of Las Cruces."

Although the exact amount of missing money has not been determined, Carmen Garza, Begane's attorney, said "the amount could be between $10,000 and $20,000." This estimate is less than one tenth the amount that was found to be missing in a church sponsored audit. "Auditors may determine a restitution amount by next week... Beggane used church credit and ATM cards for charges at Las Vegas casinos, Speaking Rock Casino in El Paso and Casino Apache on the Mescalero reservation, Anderson said.

"Beggane's use of church funds for gambling came to light after the diocese conducted a financial audit for the last three fiscal years while investigating the apparent theft of funds from weekend Mass collections. The audit found that an estimated $127,000 was taken from Immaculate Heart weekend collections over the last three fiscal years, ending June 30, 1998.

"The church investigation into missing collections was launched after Beggane reported the disappearance of $500 in parishioner tithes from the April 9 Holy Thursday Mass."

1998 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.