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EMBEZZLED CHURCH FUNDS REPORTEDLY SPENT ON GIFTS

A longtime pastor charged with embezzling $500,000 in church funds reportedly spent the money on vacations, cars and gifts to friends, including a church worker who was given a BMW and whose mortgage, taxes and utilities were paid.

The Rev. Joseph W. Hughes, 60, was charged with a single count of theft. He resigned as pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church, where he had been pastor since 1988. Hughes was suspended last week by the Diocese of Trenton and removed from the church's rectory.

An internal audit undercovered the alleged embezzlement.

Authorities maintain that Hughes bought a BMW for David C. Rogers, 25, an operations supervisor and carpenter at Holy Cross, and covered his housing expenses. He also bought vacations and jewelry for Rogers and used a church credit card account to buy several large appliances for him, authorities said.

Rogers has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

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