Apparently, nothing is off-limits to a scammer. Erwin Mena has, for years, provided the services of a Catholic priest to parishioners of the St. Bernard Catholic Church in Glassell Park and the St. Ignatius og Loyola Catholic Church in Highland Park. Unbeknownst to those he scammed, he was not an ordained priest nor was he associated with the Catholic Church.
According to reports, Mena sold tickets for a pilgrimage to see the Pope that never happened, officiated church ceremonies and also solicited donations on behalf of the Catholic Church. The money he received via donation was kept, leading to several charges of theft.
All-told, Mena scammed people out of about $53,000 and has been charged with 19 counts of grand theft and 8 counts of petty theft. He is also being charged with perjury, forgery and practicing medicine without a license.
The petty theft charges are all misdemeanors, but the 19 counts of grand theft, and the single counts of forgery, perjury and practicing medicine without a license are all felonies.
Grand Theft is covered under California Penal Code 487 PC and can be charged when someone steals something with a value of over $950. However, the way in which Mena stole the money changes the crime somewhat. Grand theft by false pretenses falls under California Penal Code 532 PC and can be described similarly to PC 487 in that a person steals something with a value greater than $950. However, Grand theft by false pretenses is only charged if, during the crime, the defendant deceived someone by telling them something that was untrue (and that the defendant knew was untrue) in an attempt to persuade the victim into allowing you to take possession of their property.
The penalties for felony grand theft include: formal (felony) probation with up to 1-year in county jail, or 16-months to 3-years in county jail. Keep in mind, these penalties are for each count of grand theft that the individual is charged with.
With all of the other charges he’s incurred, Mena is facing upwards of 21-years behind bars if convicted on all counts.