Embattled ex-priest charged with forgery

Author: Les Steward
Date Published: 10/28/2003

Former Serbian Orthodox priest Filip Velisavljevic, awaiting trial on charges he threatened the northside church’s newly elected president with a gun last December, faces new criminal charges.

Velisavljevic, 54, of 1322 Jill Ann Drive, Lebanon, was arraigned Thursday by District Justice Thomas Capello on charges of attempted theft by deception, forgery and theft by deception. He was freed on $10,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 13.

Police charged that Velisavljevic submitted requests for and received $8,433 for self-employment taxes between 2000 and 2002 when he should have received $3,970. Velisavljevic was accused of altering tax documents prepared by the accounting firm Aungst and Co. to obtain the money from the
Holy Resurrection of Christ Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church. The church is in the 100 block of East Weidman Street.

City police said they reviewed Aungst’s records, and they showed the correct amounts of Velisavljevic’s taxes that the church should have paid.

Church bylaws stipulate that the church and church employees each pay half of the taxes, according to a police affidavit.

The most recent charges are similar to allegations included in civil litigation the church filed against Velisavljevic in August.

The church also accused Velisavljevic of taking more than $5,000 worth of religious items from the church.

On Sept. 11, Judge Samuel A. Kline stayed proceedings until he decided whether Common Pleas Court or the church diocese has jurisdiction in the dispute.

Scott Grenoble, representing the Serbian church, said yesterday that the diocese sent a letter last week to Kline declining to become involved in the civil case.

”The diocese believes the court has jurisdiction to hear the matter,” Grenoble said.

No court dates have been set in the civil matter, he said.

Velisavljevic is also awaiting trial on criminal charges of simple assault, unlawful restraint, recklessly endangering another person and making terroristic threats. He remains free on $10,000 bail on those charges.

The charges stem from an incident police said occurred Dec. 9 in the church’s social hall at 120 E. Weidman St.

Velisavljevic is charged with pointing a gun at church president Fred Pantelich, 68, of 19 Pine Ave., Lebanon.

The two men wrestled for the gun, Pantelich testified at Velisavljevic’s preliminary hearing earlier this year. Pantelich tried to flee, the priest grabbed him and the gun went off. The priest suffered a superficial wound to his foot.

The confrontation occurred a day after Pantelich was elected church board president.

Velisavljevic had served 13 years as the church’s priest. But in the last two years he served as the church’s priest, Velisavljevic became alienated from the majority of the church’s congregation, according to members of the
church’s executive board. He reportedly aligned himself with about a dozen new members who are recent immigrants. The older, mostly American-born members favor board control of
church business, while the newer, European-born members favor a priest-dominated leadership.