Parishioners Pack Courtroom as Priest Sentenced to Prison

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CLEVELAND -- Father Andre Matthews, 54, of Cleveland, was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison for stealing money from his parish.

Matthews was a reverend at St. Helena Church on W. 65th Street in Cleveland.

In June, he plead guilty to stealing more than $175,000 from the church over a six-year period. The defense brought up a witness at his sentencing to testify how sick Matthews is.

"In my opinion, Father would fare very very badly, if at all, with penal incarceration," said Dr. John Conomy.

Church members packed the courtroom. Through a translator, one of the church council members said Matthews betrayed their trust.

"I came here today to say that our faithful, our very own church, is suffering," said Fabian Barbolovici, a parishioner.

Another one of his victims, an 89-year-old parishioner, wheeled herself forward to say Matthews broke her heart.

"I trusted him as a worldly friend," said Aurelia Papp, a parishioner.

Prosecutors say the money stolen was raised during bingo nights and Matthews used the money on his mortgage, credit cards and even his children's college tuition.

"I'm very, very sorry for the wrongdoings that I did," said Father Matthews.

Matthews will serve his time at the Lorain Correctional Institution.

He was also ordered to pay back the money.

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