News in brief from central Pennsylvania

Date Published: 07/15/2004

LEBANON PA: A Serbian Orthodox priest was sentenced to 23 months probation on charges that he fraudulently obtained more than $4,000 from the church.

Filip Velisavljevic, 54, was supposed to receive $3,970 in self-employment tax money from the Holy Resurrection of Christ Serbian Orthodox Church from 2000 through 2002, but allegedly claimed more and unlawfully obtained $4,463.

”We never bothered to check his paperwork. I mean, he’s a priest,” said Frederick Pantelich, one of about 40 of Velisavljevic’s former parishioners who attended the sentencing. ”I don’t feel like he’s getting punished. He did more harm to our parish than meets the eye.”

Velisavljevic said only that it was up to the judge to decide his punishment.

Lebanon County Court Judge Robert Eby said the priest destroyed the faith his parishioners and others had in him. ”You’re a spiritual adviser and you can’t be trusted,” Eby said. ”I think that’s a scary thought.”