Ex-priest pleads guilty to tax fraud

Albany Times Union, NY
July 16 2004

Ex-priest pleads guilty to tax fraud
Albany– Former pastor avoids prison time, again told to repay Troy

By BRENDAN LYONS, Staff writer
First published: Friday, July 16, 2004

A former priest who took more than $90,000 while he was pastor at an
Armenian church in Troy was sentenced on federal charges this week to
six months of home confinement and three years of probation.
Megerdich Megerdichian, 48, who now lives in Cranston, R.I., was a
priest at Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church for about 16 years
until January 1998. In the mid-1990s, Megerdichian opened a bank
account in which he deposited thousands of dollars in checks made out
to the congregation.

The deposits were made without the knowledge of a four-member church
finance board, and Megerdichian withdrew money from the account for
several years, beginning in 1995, to pay personal expenses.

In federal court Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn
heard from a church member who urged him to sentence Megerdichian to
life in prison, according to federal authorities. But Megerdichian
faced a maximum punishment of only about three years in prison and a
fine of up to $250,000. In addition to home confinement and
probation, Kahn fined him $20,000 and ordered him to repay the
embezzled money to the church.

Megerdichian was removed from ministry in 1998 and was required in
2000 to repay the parish. It’s not clear from court records if the
money has been repaid. It totaled more than $93,000, including
$82,000 in checks made out to the church.

Megerdichian pleaded guilty to a single count of filing a false and
fraudulent income tax return. The charge, which was part of a plea
agreement, was based on his not having declared the income or having
reported it to the Internal Revenue Service. Megerdichian paid
$10,293 in restitution to the IRS, authorities said.

Church finances were controlled by a four-member board during
Megerdichian’s tenure, officials said. They were signatories on all
church accounts and were required to approve church expenditures.

But from at least May 1995 until sometime in late 1997, those board
members had no idea that the priest had established a private account
at a Fleet Bank in Troy in which he deposited the thousands of