Priest's arrest on meth charges shocks Conn. diocese

.- The arrest of suspended priest Monsignor Kevin Wallin on six drug charges involving methamphetamine has caused “shock and concern” in the Diocese of Bridgeport, where he once served as pastor of the cathedral parish.

“The diocese stands ready to help as it has throughout the past two years,” the diocese said Jan. 16. “We ask for prayers for Msgr. Wallin during the difficult days ahead for him.”

The Connecticut diocese said that Msgr. Wallin resigned as pastor of Bridgeport’s St. Augustine Cathedral in June 2011, telling parishioners and friends that he was “struggling with a number of health and personal issues.” He was granted a sabbatical in July of 2011.

Msgr. Wallin, 61, was arrested Jan. 3 and charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute crystal meth. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the priest is accused of receiving drug shipments from a California distributor and selling them to an undercover officer on six occasions between September 2012 and January 2013.

Court statements say a search of Wallin’s residence on Jan. 3 found suspected methamphetamine and alleged drug paraphernalia and drug packaging materials, the Orange County, Calif. news site the OC Patch reports.

Wallin also faces one count of conspiracy to distribute the drug, with four other people. His alleged conspirators include two Connecticut residents, Kenneth Devries and Michael Nelson, and two California residents, Chad McCluskey and Kristen Laschober.

He could face ten years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million if convicted of the conspiracy charge. In addition, the drug possession charges each carry a sentence of a maximum 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Caruso and H. Gordon Hall are prosecuting the case.

Msgr. Wallin was ordained a priest in 1984. He served as a secretary to Bridgeport bishops Walter Curtis and Edward Egan, now emeritus cardinal of New York, before his appointment as pastor of St. Peter Parish in Danbury from 1996 to 2002.

The indictment alleges Msgr. Wallin sold over $9,000 of meth a week. He bought an adult video store in North Haven, Conn. that investigators believe he used to launder the drug profits.

The priest continued to receive his stipend from the diocese until his Jan. 3 arrest.

Diocese spokesman Brian Wallace told the Connecticut Post that the diocese had no indication the priest had a drug problem and no complaints regarding the priest and drugs. He said the diocese became concerned in spring 2011 after complaints of the priest’s appearance and erratic behavior.

The diocese’s Jan. 15 statement said that during Msgr. Wallin’s sabbatical, the diocese became concerned about his “well-being” and reached out to him. “To date, he has not spoken directly with diocesan officials,” it said.

His faculties for public ministry as a priest were suspended in May 2012.

Citing unnamed sources, the Connecticut Post says Msgr. Wallin was suspended after cathedral rectory staff notified the diocese that the priest was a cross-dresser who entertained other sometimes cross-dressing men who engaged in sex acts.

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