One of the Florida priests charged with stealing more than $100,000 in church funds has avoided arrest for the last month while on an "extended vacation" in Australia, officials say. Rev. Francis Guinan, pictured on the right, is believed to be making arrangements to turn himself in soon. Police say Guinan and another priest, John Skehan, pictured on the left, took more than $8.6 million in church offerings from St. Vincent Ferrer parish where they worked and used it for things like gambling trips to Las Vegas, vacations in the Bahamas and a luxury condo. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Police to Priests: Thou Shall Not Steal Click Here to See This Week’s Webcast on the Special Access Lobbyists Had to Senators This Summer Click Here to Submit a Video to Brian Ross Father Guinan, 63, also allegedly spent thousands on private school tuition for the son of a woman with whom he was having an affair. Father Skehan, 79, entered a plea of "not guilty" in a Palm Beach County courtroom Oct. 19, and is free on bond. As reported on the Blotter last month, police opened the investigation into the two priests after a parishioner sent an anonymous letter to authorities, citing concerns that an internal church audit would fail to disclose the missing money. The Palm Beach Diocese said that once the allegations arose, it launched an internal investigation and special audit.
In a statement posted on the diocese’s web site, Bishop Gerald Barbarito said, "We intend to continue to cooperate fully and to fulfill the requirements of justice." The bishop also said, "Fathers Guinan and Skehan are being placed on administrative leave and will not have permission to exercise publicly their priestly ministry" until the criminal charges are resolved.