A Roman Catholic diocese in California is warning members about imposters pretending to be bishops and priests and performing illegitimate baptisms, communions and other sacraments.
The Diocese of Stockton sent out a warning over the weekend to other churches in Central California to be on the lookout for “individuals purporting Spanish-speaking Catholic bishops and priests" who charge "exorbitant fees for celebrating the sacraments, teaching classes and issuing certificates."
The phony priests have also been demanding birth certificates from people to participate in the requested ceremonies, which the diocese said concerns them about potential cases of identity theft and human trafficking.
In the press release, the diocese said the imposters have been using the names of real priests in Mexico, and they’ve confirmed two of those exploited identities as Father José Adán González Estrada and Bishop Raúl Gómez González.
The Diocese of Stockton said they’ve been in touch with the Archdiocese of Toluca in Mexico to warn them about the scam involving the priests’ identities.
When the imposters have been challenged, the diocese said they "resort to intimidation tactics against anyone questioning their identity or authority, often threatening legal action for defamation, although these threats lack substance.”
The diocese said it alerted law enforcement in Modesto about this issue, but there is no active investigation at this time because only individuals who have personally fallen victim to the imposters can file complaints.
The press release encouraged parishioners to contact police if they think they’ve been victim to this scam and also offered advice about standard practices.
“With few exceptions, Catholic sacraments are typically administered within Catholic churches. Celebrations of baptism, confirmation, and First Communion in outdoor locations like parks are not aligned with established Catholic practices,” the diocese release said.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com