Catholic priest arrested for stealing from Church

Posted at 11:05 PM, Jun 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 00:05:57-04

PORT ARANSAS – A priest from the Diocese of Corpus Christi has been arrested by Texas Rangers on felony theft charges.  Father Krzystof "Kris" Tomasz Bauta is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the Church.  He was once the parish administrator for the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Port Aransas before he was removed in October 2017. The warrant for his arrest out of Nueces County stated that Diocesan officials reported Bauta in December 2017 accusing him of continuous theft of a large sum of money from July 2013 to December 2017.  

An investigation began with a forensic analysis of the priest’s bank records in January 2018 and again in March 2018 with a different bank.  Reports reflect that Bauta received reimbursement from the Diocese for personal items purchased on his credit cards and in some instances, items were returned for refunds yet the Diocese did not get reimbursed.  Investigators also found that checks written to the Church were deposited in Bauta’s personal checking accounts. Some of those checks were designated for "Hurricane Harvey Relief."  The warrant also states that Fr. Bauta received several mass stipends that were intentionally made for double what they were supposed to be.  And the priest received reimbursement in 2017 for $1,000 expenses made in 2015 for DirectTV which is a fraudulent payment according to the arrest affidavit.

In all, investigators say Bauta took $150,000 or more from the Church which is a nonprofit organization.  Because the amount was under $300,000, Bauta was charged with second-degree felony theft.

The Diocese of Corpus Christi released a statement Wednesday afternoon.

The Diocese of Corpus Christi is aware of the arrest of Fr. Kris Bauta. The Diocese removed Fr. Bauta from St. Joseph’s parish in Port Aransas in October 2017 after a financial audit revealed severe irregularities. This matter was ultimately turned over to law enforcement. We understand that law enforcement has been investigating the matter over several months and we have fully cooperated with their investigation. It is our understanding that the civil authorities have charged Fr. Bauta with a second degree felony. We pray for a just resolution to bring healing to all those involved. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fr. Bauta and all parties concerned.