A California man was arrested Tuesday after allegedly posing as a priest for decades, during which time he swindled parishioners while also performing masses and other Catholic rites.
Erwin Mena, 59, was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department and charged with perjury, falsifying documents, and grand theft.
Police allege Mena defrauded parishioners out of thousands of dollars, most recently while he posed as a priest at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Highland Park in northeast Los Angeles, according to an LAPD affidavit.
"Mena officiated church ceremonies and solicited donations on behalf of the church(s), but kept the money for himself," police said.
The LAPD alleges in court documents that Mena sold parishioners bogus trips to see Pope Francis during his visits to Philadelphia and New York last year, the LA Times reports.
Mena allegedly traveled from parish to parish, selling CDs he recorded and a book he claimed to have written called Confessions of a Renegade Catholic Priest, according to the affidavit.
Mena was reportedly on an archdiocese list of unauthorized priests since 2008.
While every priest entering a new parish must provide credentials along with a letter from his bishop, the pastor at St. Ignatius did not reference the list that named Mena as a bogus priest, a spokesperson with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles told the LA Times.
In a statement provided to INSIDE EDITION, the Archdiocese said:
"We are grateful to the Los Angeles Police Department for working to ensure that Erwin Mena was brought to justice. Our prayers go out to all the victims of his scam.
"The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is committed to providing pastoral care and sacramental support to the victims and others impacted by this situation."
The L.A. County district attorney's office charged Mena with 22 felonies and 8 misdemeanors, according to a criminal complaint filed by the L.A. County district attorney’s office.
An off hours call to the district attorney's office was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Reporters asked Mena if he had any comment on the charges as he was led from LAPD headquarters in handcuffs on Tuesday, to which he responded: "Not at this time."