Priest sentenced, reprimanded

Author: Nicole Tsong
Date Published: 04/05/2003
Bourdukofsky (Photo by Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News)
Bourdukofsky (Photo by Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News)

A federal judge Friday sent an Orthodox Church of America priest who embezzled around $70,000 from a historic cathedral in Sitka to a halfway house instead of jail, but the sentence also came with a reprimand about the crime.

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 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. That was one of several reasons Beistline said lessened the severity of the sentence and made him allow Bourdukofsky to stay at a halfway house as opposed to sending him to jail.

“That should not be viewed by you as an indication what you did was right, because what you did was wrong,” he told Bourdukofsky, who sat with his hands folded on a table before him.

In court Friday, Bourdukofsky acknowledged responsibility for the theft but said he didn’t intend to steal the money.

The judge said he had five years to keep an eye on the former priest.

“I have no hesitation sending you to jail if your conduct says this should occur,” Beistline said.

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.

Karen Loeffler, assistant U.S. attorney, said she couldn’t comment on the allegations. Curtner could not be reached for comment after the sentencing.

Bourdukofsky didn’t address the sex abuse allegations. He said he was never good at math and didn’t keep track of how much he took. According to court documents, he managed the account and in return was paid a percentage of the money in addition to a stipend.

“I never was an accountant,” he said before several family members and a prominent member of the Orthodox church. “I didn’t even think there was that much income coming in. I didn’t realize that I had really done what I did until I saw it on paper.”

The Rev. Michael Oleksa, the dean of St. Innocent’s Orthodox Cathedral in Anchorage, told Beistline that the church didn’t want Bourdukofsky to go to jail.

“The church has no reason to inflict any harm on this man,” he said after the sentencing hearing. Oleksa said he attended the hearing because he is Bourdukofsky’s parish priest.

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

Daily News reporter Nicole Tsong can be reached at ntsong@adn.com or 257-4450.