RAPID CITY, S.D. — A Rapid City priest has been sentenced to almost eight years in prison for stealing $258,696 in cash donations from parishioners at three parish churches in the western South Dakota city.
Marcin Stanislaw Garbacz, 42, who was caught at the Seattle airport trying to flee to Poland after he realized he was being investigated, was sentenced on Monday, Nov. 20, to 65 counts related to the theft after being convicted in March during a weeklong jury trial at the federal courthouse in Rapid City.
Garbacz must also pay restitution in the amount stolen to be split equally between the three churches — St. Therese the Little Flower, Blessed Sacrament and Cathedral of our Lay of Perpetual Help.
He must also pay $46,008 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service for five years of unpaid federal taxes and a special assessment of $6,500 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
Garbacz was convicted on 50 counts of wire fraud, nine counts of money laundering, five counts of making and subscribing a false tax return and transportation of stolen money.
In the trial, it was determined that Garbacz devised a scheme to steal offerings at various church services by secretly entering the areas in the three parishes where they were stored. He would enter the church buildings late in the night and remove and replace special, tamper-proof bank bags.
He then would make multiple same-day deposits totaling tens of thousands of dollars between 2012 and 2018.
Prosecutors said Garbacz used more than $250,000 to purchase for himself a dozen gold-plated chalices, bronze statues, a $10,000 diamond ring and a grand piano among other items.
After he heard of the investigation he withdrew $50,500 from his bank account and bought a one-way ticket to Poland.
"Marcin Garbacz not only betrayed the parishioners, he betrayed his fellow priests so he could carry out his vendetta against the Catholic Church,” said U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Ron Parsons.
The criminal investigation unit of the IRS and the FBI investigated the case. Garbacz was immediately taken by the U.S. Marshal's Service after his sentencing to begin serving his term.