Priest avoids jail time in embezzlement case

Date Published: 04/05/2003

Anchorage: A federal judge Friday sentenced an Orthodox Church of America priest who embezzled about $70,000 in Sitka to a halfway house and home confinement instead of jail.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline also added restrictions regarding the priest’s future contact with minors after referring to sex abuse allegations he said were contained in the presentence report.

Eugene N. Bourdukofsky, a priest at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Sitka for more than 20 years, was sentenced to four months in a halfway house and eight months of home detention with electronic monitoring as part of his five-year probation.

Bourdukofsky, 53, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in December for manipulating the tourism account at St. Michael’s between 1994 and 1997. The cathedral, a frequent stop for cruise ship tourists, collected money from admission tickets to the cathedral, gift shop sales and donations from other visitors.

Beistline said the Orthodox church has forgiven its former priest, which was one reason the judge decided on a lighter sentence.

”That should not be viewed by you as an indication what you did was right, because what you did was wrong,” he told Bourdukofsky.

He ordered Bourdukofsky to pay $70,000 in restitution. Federal public defender Rich Curtner said his client brought $2,000 with him Friday to pay back the Orthodox church.

Beistline did not elaborate on the sex abuse allegations in court. Bourdukofsky was removed from St. Michael’s in 1997 after the embezzlement was discovered, church officials said.

As part of his sentence, Bourdukofsky is prohibited from activities that required contact with minor children and he was ordered to have supervision whenever he’s with minor children, the judge said.

The sentence to a halfway house allows Bourdukofsky to remain in Anchorage, where he lives now, and keep a job he has held for five years, Curtner said.