CLEVELAND — A Bedford priest was charged with 10 counts of mail fraud after an alleged attempt to embezzle more than $250,000 from Ohio churches.
Andrey Kovalenko, 52, formerly of Bedford, was indicted by a grand jury in Cleveland Friday after previously being charged by criminal complaint, according to U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman.
The indictment states that Kovalenko is an ordained Russian Orthodox priest and was employed as the Director of the Shrine of Mariapoch (SOM) in Burton, Ohio from May 2014 to June 2015. He also worked as the Administrator and Pastor of Saint John Hungarian Byzantine Catholic Church (SJHBCC) in Solon and Saint Eugene Byzantine Catholic Church (SEBCC) in Bedford Heights, authorities said.
Through the positions at the churches, Kovalenko had access to several bank accounts, checks and debit cards.
From May 2014 until June 2015, Kovalenko is accused of embezzling approximately $37,686.97 from SOM bank accounts for personal expenses at grocery, automotive and department stores, the indictment said.
Kovalenko is accused of embezzling approximately $70,404.32 from SJHBCC bank accounts for personal expenses including payments to automobile dealers, contractors grocery, automotive and department stores, online shopping outlets and online music services between January 2015 until July 2018.
He is also accused of embezzling approximately $187,898.38 from SEBCC bank accounts for personal expenses including payments to an online firearm and ammunition sales company, automobile dealers, grocery, automotive and department stores, online shopping outlets and online music services from January 2015 to July 2018.
As part of the embezzling scheme, Kovalenko is accused of purchasing two freight storage containers from SEBCC’s bank account and embezzling fees for the rental of the church’s hall of weddings and other events.
As a result of his actions, SEBCC was closed due to its financial condition, authorities said.
“This defendant is accused of using his position as a priest to embezzle funds intended to serve his parishioners and the community,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “The defendant’s alleged embezzlement was so wide-ranging that at least one local parish suffered financial ruin. He must now answer for these actions in federal court.”