Allegedly phony Highland Park priest arrested on fraud charges


HIGHLAND PARK — Police today arrested an alleged con man who posed as a priest at a Highland Park Catholic church where he alleged defrauded parishioners by selling fake trips to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia last year, the L.A. Times reports.

Erwin Mena was arrested today in Elysian Park. He was charged with fraud and impersonating a priest at St. Ignatius of Loyola on Monte Vista Street. But Mena has apparently impersonated priests at other Catholic churches since the 1990s, according to the L.A. Times and Fox 11 News.

The 59-year-old man allegedly defrauded parishioners of about $15,000 at St. Ignatius and other churches, according to Fox 11.

In a statement, the LAPD said:

Over the course of several years, Mena visited multiple Catholic Parishes throughout the Los Angeles Area and portrayed himself as a Catholic Priest. Mena officiated church ceremonies and solicited donations on behalf of the church(s), but kept the money for himself.

Mena was tracked and arrested in the 1400 block of North Academy Road near the L.A Police Academy.

Courtesy LAPD

Erwin Mena | Courtesy LAPD

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  1. Nothing compared to how badly the Catholic church has actually conned and screwed people for real

    • Most employees of the Catholic Church are not con artists. We work hard to do the best for the people we serve. I happen to be a teacher at a Catolic school and I care very much about the students I teach. I’m sorry if you have had a different experience.

      • Sure there are good individuals working in the corrupt system but the system is still corrupt. Selling people guilt and fairy tales while passing around the collection plate, tax exempt of course,

      • Teacher at a Catholic School =/= someone who controls the Catholic Church, it’s teachings and the way it covers up abusive priests.

        I was born and raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools through high school, but I can separate my wonderful teachers from the horrible crimes the Church has helped commit. You are doing your students a disservice if you cannot acknowledge that the Church has helped contribute to the systematic sexual abuse of children for many, many decades.

  2. Again I really see no difference between what this guy did and what the church does on a daily basis. He sold some phoney “trips to see pope Francis”. Meanwhile the church sells equally empty nonsense. I blame the naive parishioners. I mean read this quote and tell me they didn’t have it coming…

    “We had always been raised not to question authority figures. He’s a priest — what he said is holy writ,” Oviedo said. “We never imagined he was a phony.”

    • AMEN Neighborino. A Bunch of MEN.

    • Every Church is different, the community makes a Church and the Priest are Guides to one’s Faith. I been Faithful to the same church for over 30 years & even though there are closer Church and there have changes; I still attend the same one. May God Bless you and everyone is entitled to their opinion, all I ask is that you respect the Church & the community who still believes in the Catholic Church…Amen

  3. I went to Catholic school for 12 years and only saw hard working, kind, patient teachers pushing us working class, blue collar kids to get educated and better our world. I have the umost respect for those teachers. I am not blind to all the corruption and falsities in the church, but there are many, many beautiful people involved in the community and I I find some of my most liberal friends can be the most judgmental. I saw priests and nuns fighting for equal wages, equal rights for immigrant workers, prison reform, and the environment to name a few, but we hardly ever hear about the nuns on the front line of the civil rights movement, the priests working for social justice on skid row and prisons. Yes, there are bad people working in the Catholic church, but I know of countless folks involved with the church whose hearts are open and non judgemental. This is what I learned as a child in Catholic school. I didn’t learn hate, I feel for the folks at Saint Ignatious who were taken advantage of.

    • Yes, there are good people working in a corrupt system. But in the big picture, the Catholic church is the most powerful criminal organization in history. Centuries of oppression, brutal domination of ‘savages’ (read, Native Americans and Africans), torture, extortion, rape, fear-mongering, selling lies and false hope. This one con-man is nothing compared to all that.

  4. sounds like the overall history of America to me.

  5. Any of you heard of a movie called “Spotlight”? You should check it out…

  6. He was charged with ‘impersonating a priest’,
    since when is there a law against that?

  7. Wow!!! The hipsters comments stayed out of this one?! U guys couldn’t spin that’s story on us?!! That would have been fun!

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