New Orleans priest facing rape charges also accused of embezzling $400,000

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A suspended Archdiocese of New Orleans priest who is facing rape charges could now be facing additional federal charges for financial malfeasance after a court document revealed that he allegedly pocketed almost $400,000 in parishioner donations, The Guardian reported

An ongoing 2021 lawsuit accuses 62-year-old Father John Asare-Dankwah of raping a 10-year-old boy while out of state on a 2008 retreat. Asare-Dankwah, who was the pastor at St. Peter Claver parish in New Orleans for approximately seven years before his January 2021 suspension, has denied the rape accusations. He has since counter-sued for defamation. Asare-Dankwah is from the West African country of Ghana.

The court document was an archdiocesan financial audit showing irregularities in the priest’s spending habits while at St. Peter Claver, The Guardian reported. That audit, completed in August 2021, was unsealed on Nov. 4. 

According to the news outlet, the audit showed that a total of $368,682 in parishioner donations was paid to Asare-Dankwah or was spent on his behalf. More than $80,000 of those funds were made out to the priest in checks. Almost $72,000 was funneled to his personal credit card. 

Neither of those payments included documentation of how the funds were spent, The Guardian reported. 

The audit showed that the priest’s annual salary was $23,340 and his business allowance was $7,200, the outlet reported. Housing, insurance, and retirement benefits were provided, the news outlet reported. 

The audit showed that, although typical donations for visiting priests offering Mass are about $50, Asare-Dankwah would write checks averaging about $987 to visiting priests, the outlet reported. The total spending for visiting priests offering Mass totaled $220,150.

The outlet reported that a church credit card in the priest’s name was used to spend $67,000 at grocery stores and restaurants, the audit showed. 

The audit also showed that two church bank accounts were “flagged,” according to The Guardian. 

One of those accounts was for a car raffle fundraiser in December 2018. The outlet reported that the priest told auditors that nearly $38,000 was raised in the raffle. However, the audit showed that more than $103,000 was put into an account associated with the raffle. Those funds were being spent beyond the date of the raffle until his suspension, the outlet reported. 

According to the audit, it’s unclear who won the car. Asare-Dankwah told auditors that he remembered the winner not accepting the vehicle and choosing to sell it and donate the money to the church, the outlet reported. 

The audit also showed that a separate fundraising account for a church building improvement project may have been misused. 

The fund, which was intended to celebrate the church’s 100th anniversary, showed that almost $136,000 was taken out of the account, The Guardian reported. No records were available to prove that the funds were appropriately spent, the outlet reported. 

Court records in the case show that the archdiocese gave the audit to the FBI, The Guardian reported. No charges have been filed by the bureau as of Saturday the outlet reported. 

CNA reached out to the FBI for an update but received no response by time of publication. The Guardian reported that an archdiocesan spokesperson said local church officials are no longer in contact with the priest.

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