A Greek Orthodox priest pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $100,000 from his former parish in Wauwatosa, but under a deferred prosecution deal he will get only a misdemeanor conviction if he stays out of trouble for a year.
Neither the Rev. James Dokos nor his attorneys, Patrick Knight and Franklyn Gimbel, made any comment after a hearing before Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Conen.
Dokos, 63, of Chicago, was charged in 2014 with using about $100,000 intended for Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church for lavish dinners, jewelry for his wife and everyday expenses. He had been the pastor at the church about 20 years.
By the time he was charged, Dokos had already been transferred to Sts. Peter and Paul in Glenview, Ill., one of the largest and most affluent Greek Orthodox churches in the Chicago area.
Theft in a business setting of more than $10,000 — which is a felony — carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, plus five years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine. But Conen agreed to withhold entry of judgment, and if Dokos meets various reporting and community service requirements, in a year Conen will instead enter judgment for misdemeanor theft. As part of the agreement, Assistant District Attorney David Robles said he will recommend an unspecified fine at that time.
Robles also told Conen that he met earlier in the month with members of Annunciation to explain the agreement and take questions. He said Dokos has already paid restitution of more than $10,000, and that the plea settles all known criminal and civil actions arising from Dokos’ conduct.
George Karcazes, a longtime member and volunteer in the Glenview parish, attended Monday’s hearing.
“The biggest reason this is an insult,” he said afterward, “is the bishop tried to get him off.” Karcazes was referring to a letter sent, under seal, to Conen. Karcazes, a lawyer, said he planned to seek to have the letter unsealed.
He said for two years after news broke of Dokos’ criminal charges in Wisconsin, some 40 families left the Chicago-area parish, and stewardship dropped $250,000.
Dokos was eventually suspended as pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, but he remains a priest in good standing. Karcazes said he gets assigned to help out as needed at other Chicago area parishes.
Some of the money Dokos took from a trust intended to benefit Annunciation Church went to Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the No. 2 official in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, to which the Wauwatosa church belongs.
Karcazes said that when the Sts. Peter and Paul parish council president asked Metropolis officials to put Dokos on leave during the criminal case, he was instead removed from his position.
According to the criminal complaint against Dokos:
The theft was discovered by Annunciation’s parish council in 2013, months after Dokos had transferred to Glenview. From 2008 to 2012, he diverted money from a trust a couple had left for the construction of a cultural center at the church while he was serving as successor trustee after the death of the trust’s creator.
Ervin and Margaret Franczak created the trust in 1984. In 2004, Margaret Franczak, as the surviving trustee, named Dokos her successor. The last of several amendments to the trust occurred in 2007. Upon Margaret Franczak’s death, Dokos was to get $5,000, a car and any property of the trust.
Twenty thousand dollars was to go to three charities, and all the rest to the church for a cultural center.
Margaret died in 2008. Dokos turned over $1.1 million to the church. But investigation revealed money remained in the trust, the complaint says, and Dokos had changed the address on the trust’s bank account to his home in 2008.
Over the following years, according to the complaint, Dokos wrote checks for more than $110,000 for “clearly personal expenditures,” such as gifts to his daughter, his cable bill, medical expenses, $5,000 for jewelry for Dokos’ wife, trips and credit card bills.