WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 5-11, 2010)

SCANDAL

Police: Priest Used Parish Money For Hotels, Male Escorts.” By Julie Stagis and Jenna Carlessa. Hartford Courant. July 6, 2010. A well-known Roman Catholic priest who stole $1.3 million from the Sacred Heart parish over seven years said he “had grown to hate being a priest” because the Archdiocese had given him the “worst church assignments” where he would “have to fix problems made by the previous priests,” according to his arrest warrant. The Rev. Kevin J. Gray, 64, was charged with first-degree larceny. Police said he used church funds to pay for hotels, restaurant meals, clothing and male escorts. Gray turned himself in to authorities Tuesday morning and was arraigned in Waterbury Superior Court. Bail was set at $750,000, court officials said.

Siljander pleads guilty in Islamic American Relief Agency lobbying case.” By R. Jeffrey Smith. Washington Post. July 8, 2010. A former congressman pleaded guilty Wednesday to serving as an unregistered agent in Washington for a Missouri-based Islamic charity that the federal government said had ties to international terrorism. It was an odd outcome for Mark D. Siljander, who said he wanted to help bridge the gulf between Muslims and Christians. A Republican who attained one of Michigan’s congressional seats from 1981 to 1987 with assistance from the Moral Majority, Siljander was outspoken about conservative social issues. Siljander confirmed in a Kansas City, Mo., court that he contacted members of Congress in an effort to lift restrictions on the charity and then lied about his work in statements to investigators. He could face a 15-year prison term and a $500,000 fine, according to a Justice Department statement. The charity in question, the Islamic American Relief Agency, was raided and shuttered by the government in 2004 after extensive wiretaps of its officers. In a 2008 indictment, the charity was charged with improperly sending funds to Pakistan on behalf of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had received millions from the CIA and was briefly Afghanistan’s foreign minister. He later formed an alliance with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden that led the United States to try to kill him with a drone missile.
Related Stories:
Plea skirts terror link for former lawmaker.Boston Globe/Associated Press. July 8, 2010.

Texas Investigators Join Alamo Fray.” By Perry Stein. Wall Street Journal. July 9, 2010. The Texas Attorney General’s Office is investigating the Daughters of the Republic of Texas—an organization of 7,000 women who can trace their lineage back to the origins of the Texas Republic—who have been the stewards of the Alamo since 1905. They manage, operate and maintain the state-owned historic site at no cost to taxpayers. The investigation began after Sarah Reveley, a member of the group, filed a complaint alleging that the Daughters weren’t keeping the fort in “good order and repair,” as they are bound to do under a 1905 state law. The investigation is the latest in a a slew of recent struggles for the Daughters, including the termination of the group’s latest executive director five months into his six-month probationary period. And the group, without a leader since January, has been laboring to set up a fund-raising campaign needed to pay for repairs and preservation efforts. An unaffiliated group that hoped to aid the Daughters formed a foundation with the goal of creating a $400 million endowment for the Alamo. But the foundation disbanded in June without raising a penny.

N.Va. nonprofit’s plight puts low-income housing at risk.” By Derek Kravitz. Washington Post. July 10, 2010. More than 100 low-income Northern Virginia families are at risk of losing their taxpayer-subsidized housing as one of the Washington region’s largest nonprofit groups struggles financially after fraud allegations, according to the nonprofit and government officials. In March, the former executive director of the Robert Pierre Johnson Housing Development Corp. of the National Capital Area resigned after Fairfax County officials accused him of forging a zoning document. The document had been used to secure $700,000 in local and state housing contracts, and Herbert J. Cooper-Levy, the organization’s chief since 2001, was forced out. No charges have been filed against Cooper-Levy. Since Cooper-Levy’s resignation, Alexandria-based RPJ Housing has lost all of its public funding in Fairfax, which amounted to about $578,000 last fiscal year. Fairfax officials banned the group from receiving county contracts for up to three years and conducted an audit in June that found the group was in dire financial straits and on the brink of shutting down in the county.

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