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A Catholic Priest In Ontario May Have Gambled Away Half A Million Meant For Refugees

Father Amer Saka was suspended.

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Police in London, Ontario, are investigating a Catholic priest who allegedly gambled away half a million dollars meant for Iraqi refugees.

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church / Facebook

Father Amer Saka was suspended as a priest at the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in late February after church officials say he admitted to gambling with money set aside for refugees.

St. Joseph's was one of many parishes that had raised funds as part of an effort by the diocese of Hamilton to resettle people in Canada, and had raised more than $500,000.

But last month, the bishop overseeing the church grew suspicious. Emanuel Shaleta told the London Free Press he "cornered" Saka and demanded to know where the money was, and the priest "confessed" he no longer had it. Shaleta said he suspended the priest and referred the case to the cops.

“We are currently investigating an alleged fraud as a result from a complaint from the diocese of Hamilton,” a London police spokesperson told BuzzFeed Canada.

The missing money had been raised for about 30 private sponsorships of refugees from Iraq. Monsignor Murray Kroetsch, the chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, told BuzzFeed Canada that 11 individuals have already landed and are being settled in Ontario.

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church / Facebook

Kroetsch said the Diocese of Hamilton would assume responsibility for all the approved refugees, including those "in the pipeline."

"It's going to be a challenge, certainly a challenge financially, but also a challenge in terms of helping people adapt to their new country," he said.

The Canadian government requires sponsors to set aside enough money for the first year of a refugee family's life in Canada, which comes to about $30,000 for a family of five.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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