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16 Mar, 2010 09:54

Fake priest gang busted

Fake priest gang busted

A group of people who posed as Russian Orthodox priests and performed fake holy rituals for money has been arrested in St. Petersburg.

The swindlers had a constant supply of clients thanks to links with a morgue’s administration. Relatives of the dead were lured by their adverts, claiming that their chapel was blessed by the Metropolitan bishop of St. Petersburg and Ladoga region, police report.

In reality, however, only one of the gang members had ever been ordained by the Russian Orthodox Church. The gang leader, a former priest, had been stripped of his rank for misbehavior. Apparently he taught others how to perform rituals and how to act like a real priest. In fact, the chapel they built on the territory of the morgue had not been sanctified, or even put on city maps.

Not only did the fake priests serve liturgies for deceased, but they also claimed to have relics of several Christian saints in their church, and took money from believers wishing to pray near them. A police investigation revealed the claims to be just as false as the ranks of the fraudsters.

“The relics mentioned in the ads are all in different cathedrals, some of which are not even in Russia, and never left their proper locations,” investigators say.

Hundreds of believers have been deceived by the group.

Unrelated to the fraud, the gang leader is also suspected of organizing an Internet community for those seeking suicide and having a hand in making several members kill themselves.