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School principal stole $25K to pay rent, vacation, non-existent conference: Police

<i>Montgomery County D.A.'s Office</i><br/>Catholic school principal
Montgomery County D.A.'s Office
Montgomery County D.A.'s Office
Catholic school principal

By WPVI Digital Staff and Katie Katro

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    MAPLE GLEN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — A Montgomery County Catholic school principal is accused of stealing more than $25,000 from the school for personal use.

John McGrath, 56, of East Norriton has been charged with multiple felonies including Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activity, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, Receiving Stolen Property and related charges.

In November 2021, Upper Dublin police were alerted by an official with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The official said an internal investigation by the Archdiocese indicated that the Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School principal had been stealing school funds over a period of time.

Upper Dublin police investigated and found that McGrath had made unauthorized payments for personal expenses, including a vacation, using school credit cards.

The alleged theft totaled $25,436.54, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

McGrath allegedly used a school-issued credit card, Venmo and Amazon for the fraudulent transactions.

According to officials, McGrath used a Venmo account tied to the Maple Glen school’s credit card to pay his rent five times.

The school credit card was also used for restaurants, bars, DoorDash, Uber, hotel stays and Amazon purchases, according to the district attorney’s office.

Official said more than $3,500 was charged to the credit card for a non-existent conference to Washington, D.C. The expenses were for a hotel stay and restaurants for McGrath, his brother and a teacher.

In mid-2020, officials said McGrath collected $1,200 into his personal Venmo account from school families who were purchasing “OLM Strong” t-shirts. Officials said that money was never transferred to the school coffers.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said McGrath was placed on leave in the fall of 2021.

“Subsequently, a unanimous decision was reached by the pastors charged with oversight of the school along with its board of limited jurisdiction that it was in the best interest of the OLM community for Mr. McGrath not to return as principal,” the statement read.

The Archdiocese said the unauthorized expensive actually totaled closer to $30,000.

The Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School is supported by three Catholic parishes in the area.

Some local parents are wondering how he got away with these transactions over such a long period of time.

“I manage a company and you know we watch all that stuff, so it also baffles me that it gets to that point you know?” said Steve Marin.

McGrath faces several felony charges including theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, and receiving stolen property as well as a misdemeanor charge for unsworn falsification to authorities.

“These criminal charges are serious and disturbing. The school will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as the criminal matter enters its next phase and will seek full restitution,” the Archdiocese said.

Bail was set at $50,000 unsecured and McGrath was released. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 1.

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