Man who impersonated well-known bishop confesses

October 15, 2010 (CHICAGO)

In this Intelligence Report: a repentant scam artist -- or at least someone who claims to be.

If this claim of responsibility is true, then what we have is a con artist with a conscience. Less than 24 hours after the I-Team reported that Nigerian scammers had hijacked the identity of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, the bishop received an e-mail from someone claiming to be the scammer.

"I've had some bad thoughts about the person," Perry previously told the I-Team.

Maybe it was the blunt honesty from Bishop Perry himself in our Wednesday night report that prompted an e-mail from someone claiming to have stolen his identity.

The e-mail from the bogus bishop to the real one offers remorse. "Sincerely apologies for tarnishing your name," it reads, "in the name of stealing money from your friends."

That is just what had been happening since last May to the Most Reverend Joseph Perry, one of Cardinal Francis George's right hand men and auxiliary bishop of the Chicago church since his appointment in 1998 by Pope John Paul II.

The FBI in Chicago said fraudsters in Nigeria were behind the scheme that included a fake Facebook page in the bishop's name, connections to people who believed it was the real bishop, and e-mails asking for donations to a needy orphanage in Africa.

"The e-mail was actually written in a way-- there were actually many misspellings in the e-mail, and it was very crude," said Special Agent Todd Carroll, FBI Cyber-Crimes Unit. "(There were) a lot of indicators to a lot of people who knew the bishop that this is not normally something he would have put out."

The latest e-mail to the bishop -- if authentic -- is from a Nigerian national who claims to have spent time in Chicago; he claims to have once worked for the archdiocese and stole the bishop's credit card from church computer files.

"I felt so bad," the author claims, and "promise not to do it again. I ask for your forgiveness and I repent."

"Yesterday when home, I watched ABC's news and realized how much I had inconvenienced you."

How much was stolen is not known.

"From the people that have said they've donated, and from so many who haven't come forward to say they've donated but we know they did--I'm saying very close to $50,000," said Deacon Dan Ragonese, Bishop Perry's assistant.

The e-mailer claims to have been in Nigeria for the past three years, which is where the FBI had traced the scam.

Attorneys for the archdiocese are said to be looking into the claim of responsibility, although the I-Team has not heard back from them.

The FBI has not yet examined the e-mail claiming responsibility.

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