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Fake priest arrested in central Philippines

Authorities seize alleged fraudster during his ’prayer Mass’

The cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo The cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo
  • Julian Labores, Manila
  • Philippines
  • January 12, 2011
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A fake priest who allegedly victimized local Catholics and even budding seafarers was arrested while celebrating what turned out to be his last “prayer Mass” in the central Philippine city of Iloilo yesterday.

Radio dzBB’s Iloilo affiliate reported today that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Charlie Fontanilla, 41, while celebrating Mass at a victim’s house along Ledesma Street.

Officials seized holy water and solicitation letters for his so-called charities.

The report said the NBI is also investigating Fontanilla for allegedly offering budding seafarers jobs in New Zealand and collecting recruitment fees from them.

Initial investigation showed Fontanilla’s victims included local trader James Feliciano, who had him celebrating Mass at his Internet café and house at least five times.

Fontanilla managed to collect some P5,000 (US$114) from Feliciano, the report said.

It was only when a friend recognized the “priest” and informed Feliciano that the trader tipped off the NBI. The NBI in turn conducted a sting operation.

A check with the Jaro Archdiocese showed there was no priest by the name of Fontanilla.

On the other hand, the NBI said it is looking into Fontanilla’s alleged involvement in illegal recruitment activities in 2005 and 2009, where he supposedly victimized seafarers bound for New Zealand.

The fake priest now faces charges of swindling and usurpation of authority.

Related reports
Church kicks out popular fake priest
Two priests banned from celebrating Mass

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