Fake priest arrested for defrauding parishioners

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LOS ANGELES — Erwin Mena officiated mass, took confessions and performed weddings and funerals for years.

But he’s not really a priest.

Los Angeles prosecutors say Mena collected $53,000 from parishioners while pretending to be a priest at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Glassell Park and St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church.

Mena faces 19 counts of grand theft of property worth more than $950 and eight instances of alleged petty theft.

“Mena is accused of … selling tickets for a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis during his visit to the United States last September,” the district attorney’s office said. “Prosecutors said he never made the arrangements and the trip didn’t take place.”

Mena is also charged with perjury, forgery and one count of practicing medicine without a license.

If convicted, he could face 21 years behind bars.

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