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Ogdensburg man indicted on alleged theft of more than $17,000 from priest

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CANTON — The Ogdensburg man arrested and charged with stealing more than $17,000 in checks from a priest has been indicted on 10 felonies and is scheduled for arraignment in St. Lawrence County Court on Monday.

A grand jury has charged Jesse G. Austin, 34, of 212 Montgomery St., Ogdensburg, with one count of fourth-degree grand larceny, a class D felony and nine counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, also class D felonies.

It is alleged that on nine dates starting on Dec. 21 and ending April 1, Mr. Austin stole and cashed nine checks totaling $17,460 from the Community Bank N.A. account of the Rev. Edward E. Papp, 82, a resident of St. Joseph’s Home, 950 Linden St., Ogdensburg.

Mr. Austin was arrested on May 16 by Ogdensburg police. Detective Sgt. Robert H. Wescott said it is believed that someone who was employed at the facility had access to the checks, which is how Mr. Austin came into possession of them.

“This would have kept on going if the money didn’t run out, and the priest had a decent amount of money in that account,” Sgt. Wescott said.

Officials from Community Bank contacted the church when the account went negative, Sgt. Wescott added.

“It raised some red flags and the church officials got in touch with Father Papp,” he said.

And while this is the second time in recent history that a priest has been robbed of thousands of dollars, Sgt. Wescott said the difference between this incident of theft and the Bobbie Jo Zeller case is that Ms. Zeller is being accused of duping an Ogdensburg priest and his parish out of more than $300,000.

“He didn’t give any permission to access his account,” Sgt. Wescott said of Father Papp. “He was just plain old outright victimized.”

Mr. Austin was released from St. Lawrence County jail on $3,000 bail or $6,000 bond.

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