Lubbock’s Catholic cathedral finds $250k missing, FBI finds embezzlement suspect in Colombia

Cathedral of Christ the King, Lubbock, Texas / Diocese of Lubbock (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A man who allegedly stole more than $250,000 from Lubbock’s Christ the King Cathedral has been located in Colombia, and U.S. officials are seeking his return.

The suspect managed the cathedral’s donations and its Venmo and PayPal accounts. The cathedral rector was not implicated in the theft but resigned after its discovery.

Nathan Allen Webb, a cathedral parishioner, had assumed responsibilities at the cathedral that included managing donations and paying bills, in August 2019, according to Everything Lubbock. In March 2021, a lawyer for the Diocese of Lubbock “reported that Webb was engaged in a fraud scheme to embezzle money” from the cathedral, the FBI criminal complaint said.

Webb faces charges of wire fraud. Federal officials have asked the Colombian government to detain him through INTERPOL.

“Webb was embezzling thousands of dollars each month by making unauthorized transfers of money from (Christ the King’s) Venmo account to his personal Venmo account,” according to the FBI criminal complaint.

During at least part of this time, Webb was in South America.

In March, Father John Ohlig, rector of Christ the King Cathedral – as well as the parish finance committee – reportedly discovered funds were missing from the cathedral’s bank account and reported this to the diocese, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

“The FBI was notified immediately,” the Lubbock diocese said in a June 23 statement. “The parish and the diocese assisted the FBI in a thorough investigation since that time. The Diocese of Lubbock did not reveal the theft to preserve the integrity of the investigation.”

“Father Ohlig is in no way implicated in the theft of the funds,” said the diocese.

According to the FBI complaint, Fr. Ohlig confronted Webb on March 3. Evidence suggests that Webb closed his PayPal account on the same day.

An arrest warrant was issued for Webb on June 10. Webb’s father had assured the FBI that he would fly to Florida and submit himself for arrest. Though he was scheduled to fly from Cartagena, Columbia to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 14, he did not board the plane.

Prosecutors have taken all steps to have Webb detained.

Two days after Webb’s scheduled flight, he checked into a hotel in Pereira, Colombia. He was arrested for a visa overstay. Colombian officials planned to deport him but he tested positive for COVID-19, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.

On June 10, Ohlig submitted his resignation as rector to Bishop Robert M. Coerver. In his resignation letter, the priest said: “I simply believe it is best for the administration of Christ the King Cathedral Parish and its entities to be handled by a different person as the faith community tries to move forward from this unfortunate incident.”

The priest is available for reassignment within the diocese. His new assignment and the appointment of a new cathedral rector will be announced soon, the diocese said.

The diocese and the cathedral are working with a third-party finance firm “to continue a thorough examination of the parish financial records and to assist in constructing enhanced accounting procedures.”

“Changes in office management have also been made,” the Lubbock diocese said.

The Lubbock diocese serves over 136,000 Catholics in 61 parishes across 25 counties of West Texas, the diocese’s website says. It was established in 1983. Catholics make up about 25% of the population in the diocese’s territory, which has some 530,000 residents.

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