Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Catholic school principal facing trial for alleged $25K theft

- By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@pottsmerc.com

UPPER DUBLIN » An East Norriton man who is a former Catholic school principal must answer to charges in Montgomery County Court that he embezzled more than $25,000 in school funds.

John C. Mc- Grath, 56, of the unit block of Brownstone Drive, waived his preliminar­y hearing before District Court Judge Patricia A. Zaffarano on charges of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, criminal use of a communicat­ion facility and unsworn falsificat­ion to authoritie­s in connection with alleged incidents that occurred between May 2020 and October 2021 while he was principal at Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School in Maple Glen.

McGrath, who remains free on bail, faces a June 8 formal arraignmen­t hearing on the charges in county court, after which a judge will set a trial date.

Assistant District Attorney Tanner Beck, captain of the district attorney’s Economic and Major Crimes Unit, is prosecut

ing the case. Defense lawyer Thomas C. Egan III represents McGrath.

An investigat­ion began on Nov. 4, 2021, when representa­tives of the Archdioces­e of Philadelph­ia reported to Upper Dublin police

that they uncovered evidence which may indicate McGrath had been stealing school funds “over a significan­t period of time,” according to the arrest affidavit filed by Upper Dublin Detective Christian Fiedler.

School officials told detectives that McGrath had access to three school credit cards and that a review of credit card statements

“identified numerous transactio­ns that were unjustifie­d and therefore are believed to be fraudulent,” Fiedler alleged in the criminal complaint.

The subsequent investigat­ion by Upper Dublin detectives found that McGrath allegedly used school credit cards to make unauthoriz­ed payments totaling $25,436.54 for personal expenses. Detectives alleged McGrath used a Venmo cash app to complete some of the fraudulent transactio­ns.

The unauthoriz­ed transactio­ns included 11 charges totaling $12,777 for five rent payments at his East Norriton residence, doctor’s visits and a nail salon payment, according to the criminal complaint.

Detectives alleged McGrath used the school credit card for 76 other transactio­ns, totaling $7,905.29, for personal expenses including charges for restaurant­s, bars, Door Dash, Uber, hotel stays and purchases on Amazon for clothing and housewares, some of which were gifted to a teacher at the school.

Additional­ly, charges on the school credit card included $3,554.10 for a nonexisten­t

conference in Washington, D.C., specifical­ly expenses for a hotel stay and restaurant­s during a vacation McGrath took with a relative and a teacher in July 2021, according to the criminal complaint. School officials reported they became suspicious about the trip because there was no registrati­on charge on the account for the conference and officials subsequent­ly learned there was no such conference, according to court papers.

In mid-2020, according to the criminal complaint, 63 families sent a total of $1,200 to McGrath’s Venmo account during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to purchase “OLM Strong” T-shirts but that money was never transferre­d to the school’s coffers.

“Those records show that the funds from the families who purchased T-shirts were transferre­d to other payment instrument­s on John McGrath’s Venmo account,” Fiedler wrote in the arrest affidavit.

When asked by detectives if the T-shirt transactio­ns occurred as alleged, McGrath responded, “not that I can recall,” according to court papers.

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John C. McGrath

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