(FOX40.COM) — The Diocese of Stockton is alerting people in Modesto about individuals pretending to be Spanish-speaking Catholic bishops and priests for fraudulent activities.
The clergy imposters are reportedly stealing the identities of “genuine priests” in Mexico and conducting unauthorized celebrations of baptism, confirmation, First Communion, and house blessings under false pretenses.
How do the imposters operate?
The fake priests and bishops have been discovered to charge excessively high fees for celebrating the sacraments, teaching classes, and issuing certificates, according to The Diocese of Stockton. They also demand the submission of birth certificates for individuals participating in these sacraments, raising concerns about human trafficking and identity theft.
Two confirmed identities being exploited are Father José Adán González Estrada and Bishop Raúl Gómez González. Officials of the Diocese of Stockton said they verified the veracity of the deception in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Toluca in Mexico.
The Diocese of Stockton also reported that the imposters resort to intimidation tactics against anyone questioning their identity or authority, often threatening legal action for defamation.
Law enforcement response:
The Diocese of Stockton reportedly informed Modesto law enforcement authorities about the alleged scam. Individuals who have fallen victim to the Catholic clergy imposters can file complaints and initiate investigations.