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East Ventura County Focus

SIMI VALLEY : Judge Rejects Request in Priest's Theft Case

July 31, 1993|BARBARA MURPHY

A Superior Court judge on Friday refused to reconsider his decision allowing cocaine and $10,000 in cash to be used as evidence against a Simi Valley priest charged with stealing thousands of dollars from two Ventura County parishes.

Judge Allan A. Steele brushed aside defense claims that there was police misconduct in the case, and he refused to change an earlier ruling that the money and cocaine were seized lawfully. Authorities found the drugs and money in a church-owned car driven by Father David Dean Piroli when he was arrested May 29, 1992, outside a department store in Hollywood.

Piroli, 37, is scheduled for trial in Ventura Superior Court on Sept. 7 on two felony charges of grand theft. He is accused of embezzling $60,000 in collection money from St. Peter Claver Church in Simi Valley and Sacred Heart Church in Saticoy.

Piroli was assistant pastor at St. Peter Claver at the time of his arrest, and Sacred Heart Church was his previous assignment. He has been relieved of his priest's duties because of the criminal case, and is free on $100,000 bail posted by loyal parishioners.

It was the Hollywood arrest that touched off the criminal investigation of Piroli. After the arrest, a church secretary and housekeeper at St. Peter Claver discovered thousands of dollars in small bills, plus collection envelopes, in Piroli's bedroom and closet.

The cash found in the car also was in small bills, according to court records.

Los Angeles prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Piroli, saying the amount of cocaine was too small. But the Ventura County district attorney's office began its own investigation and eventually filed the theft charges.

Piroli vanished June 3, 1992, and resurfaced two months later at the Mexican border, where authorities stopped him driving into California with two alleged illegal immigrants in the trunk of a newly purchased car.

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