US priest laundered meth money in sex shop

AP, HARTFORD, Connecticut

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 - Page 7

To onlookers, Monsignor Kevin Wallin’s fall from grace at his Connecticut parish was like something out of Breaking Bad, the US television series about a high-school chemistry teacher who becomes a methamphetamine lord.

The suspended Roman Catholic priest was arrested on federal drug charges this month for allegedly having methamphetamine mailed to him from co-conspirators in California and making more than US$300,000 in drugs sales out of his apartment in Waterbury, Connecticut, in the second half of last year.

Along the way, he bought a small adult video and sex toy shop in the nearby town of North Haven named “Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place,” apparently to launder the money he was making, authorities said. He has pleaded not guilty and jury selection in his trial is scheduled to begin on March 21.

On social media sites, people could not help but compare Wallin with Walter White, the main character in Breaking Bad, He has also been dubbed in some media as “Monsignor Meth.”

Wallin, 61, was the pastor of St Augustine Parish in Bridgeport for nine years until he resigned in June 2011, citing health and personal problems.

He was granted a sabbatical in July 2011. The Diocese of Bridgeport suspended him from public ministry in May last year.

Diocesan officials became concerned about Wallin in the spring of 2011 after complaints about his appearance and erratic behavior, diocese spokesman Brian Wallace told the Connecticut Post.

“We became aware that he was acting out sexually — with men — in the church rectory,” Wallace told the newspaper, adding that the church asked Wallin to resign.

Wallin’s arrest called attention to larger problems within the church, said Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, one of many local chapters of the lay organization formed in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

“Catholics have to ask whether the mandatory obligation of celibacy imposes a harmful burden on priests and whether women ought to be admitted to the priesthood,” the group said in a statement.

Wallin’s case has drawn comparisons to that of the Reverend Ted Haggard, a well-known evangelical megachurch pastor in Colorado who was forced out of his job in 2006 after a male escort alleged Haggard had paid him for sex and bought crystal meth.

Federal agents arrested Wallin on Jan. 3 and a grand jury indicted him and four other people on drug charges on Jan. 15. All are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500g or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and 50g of methamphetamine — punishable by 10 years to life in prison.

Wallin is also charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute.

In July last year, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in New York told agents in the New Haven office that there was an unidentified Connecticut-based drug trafficker distributing meth in the region. Two months later, an informant told the agency that the trafficker was Wallin, an affidavit by DEA agent Jay Salvatore showed.

Federal agents also say they learned through wiretaps and informants about other sales Wallin was making.