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Man Sentenced in Priest Extortion Case


(ASHTABULA, Ohio) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini today announced that a man accused of extorting more than $100,000 from an area priest will spend the next several years in prison.

Brian Gaster, 27, was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday morning.  Gaster pleaded guilty to two charges of Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity.

"This defendant specifically targeted a priest in order to take advantage of his trust and charity," said Attorney General DeWine.  "The victim genuinely thought this man and his family needed help, but the only help the defendant needed was help funding his drug addiction."

Investigators said Gaster lied to the priest, of St. Joseph's Calasanctius Parish in Jefferson, telling him that he had a seriously ill child and that a family member had been kidnapped and needed thousands of dollars for ransom.

Over approximately one year, investigators said the priest gave Gaster $133,000 of his personal savings and parish money.

The judge also ordered that Gaster pay restitution.

"This case involved hours of law enforcement effort and many victims, including a kind-hearted priest whose willingness to help the downtrodden was abused by a professional con artist," said Assistant Ashtabula County Prosecutor Margaret Draper. "It is truly the worst kind of crime, and a seven year sentence just begins to address the magnitude of the harm inflicted on our community by his actions."

Authorities also connected Gaster to a series of Ashtabula County burglaries.

Agents with the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) investigated the case with the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office.


Media Contacts:

Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Jill Del Greco: 614-466-3840

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