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California diocese says imposters are posing as clergymen and scamming parishioners

Priest praying in the church holding holly bible and cross
Priest praying in the church holding holly bible and cross | Shutterstock

October 24, 2023 8:45pm

Updated: October 24, 2023 8:45pm

The Diocese of Stockton, California, issued a warning about two imposters posing as Catholic clergymen in Modesto, California. The two have reportedly been charging high fees for blessings and sacraments while falsely using the names of legitimate clergymen from Mexico, Catholic News reported. 

The two have reportedly used the names of Archbishop Raúl Gómez González of Toluca and Father José Adán González Estrada and charging for sacraments like baptism, confirmation, and first Communion.

The pair have also reportedly taught classes and issuing forged certificates for a fee, although the exact nature of these certificates is unclear. Some certificates reviewed by the diocese included the words "confirmation" and "Communion."

Law enforcement is particularly concerned about the imposters having demanded birth certificates from individuals participating in the sacraments, a possible pretense for human trafficking and identity theft.

Catholic News reported that when some of their would be victims would question their authority, the pair have resorted to intimidation tactics and legal threats against individuals.

The diocese has been in contact with potential victims of this scam, but they have remained anonymous, a point that has not helped Modesto police with their investigation since criminal complaints cannot be filed through third parties. 

The report said that while the diocese has not compromised the identity of those who have come forward, they are encouraging them to contact the police, and explained that local police will not inquire about the caller's immigration status, but are rather focused on combating area criminal activities.

The diocese also pointed out that Catholic sacraments are typically administered within  churches, and celebrations of baptism, confirmation, and first Communion in outdoor locations like parks are not aligned with established practices.

Presently, the diocese is aware of only two imposters, but it continues to actively monitoring the situation. The real identities of the two individuals remain unknown.