Ex-priest charged with stealing $100K from Nebraska church

Michael Gutgsell, former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, in court on charges of theft in October 2021. | YouTube/KMTV 3 News Now

A former chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha who's already facing other criminal charges has been charged with stealing over $100,000 from a Nebraska church.

Michael Gutgsell, a former priest who had previously been charged with two other felony counts, was charged last week with stealing $106,000 from his former parish, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Springfield.

Gutgsell, who claims that he took the money to help a homeless man, will face a preliminary hearing on the latest charge on Feb. 8, according to The Associated Press.

According to police, Gutgsell has already admitted to taking $180,000 from a retired Omaha priest, Theodore Richling, who died in 2019. Gutgsell took care of Richling and oversaw his estate during his final years.

During his lifetime, Richling faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct among minors, which an archdiocesan investigation in 2020 concluded held merit.

Before resigning last year due to the allegations, Gutgsell held a host of church positions, including chancellor of the Archdiocese from 1994-2003, curia moderator 1998-2005, pastor of St. Celia Parish from 2005-2017, and pastor of St. Joseph from 2017-2021.

Last October, the Archdiocese’s publication Catholic Voice reported that an audit by the Catholic Church also found “financial improprieties” in the St. Joseph parish finances, although no evidence of wrongdoing was found when Gutgsell was pastor of St. Celia.

In 2007, Gutgsell's brother, Stephen, plead guilty to felony theft by deception for embezzling over $125,000 from St. Patrick Catholic Church in South Omaha, according to the Omaha World-Herald. 

Stephen Gutgsell was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution. He paid around $27,000 in restitution during his probation and was released after Archbishop George Lucas said the archdiocese had made arrangements for Stephen to pay what was still owed. 

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