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DeNaples' priest had deep debt
On a take-home pay of $880 a month, the Rev. Joseph Sica amassed debts of $218,000.
And he owed the vast bulk of the money -- $148,000 -- to a bank headed by his friend, Louis DeNaples, owner of Mount Airy Casino Resort.
How Sica qualified for credit cards, auto and personal loans on a Roman Catholic priest's income, and what he spent all the money on, are mysteries unaddressed by the bankruptcy court papers that document his financial hole.
Even the man prosecuting Sica for allegedly lying to a grand jury investigating DeNaples can't explain it, saying he was unaware that DeNaples' bank, First National Community Bancorp of Dunmore, Lackawanna County, was a principal creditor.
''But I find it very interesting and will pursue it further,'' Fran Chardo, Dauphin County's chief deputy district attorney, said Thursday. ''It shows another connection between the father and DeNaples.''
The grand jury is investigating whether DeNaples, a wealthy Scranton businessman, lied about his alleged ties to organized crime to get a slots license.
Sica, 52, is accused of lying during his testimony on Aug. 29 to the grand jury about his relationship with the late Russell Bufalino, the longtime head of a northeastern Pennsylvania crime family.
A priest assigned to the Diocese of Scranton, Sica has regularly accompanied
DeNaples at state Gaming Control Board hearings and meetings, and at times has acted as DeNaples' bodyguard, shielding him from crowds.
Kevin Feeley, a DeNaples spokesman, said Sica and DeNaples, 67, have been friends since Sica's childhood. Feeley declined to comment on Sica's bankruptcy filing or two personal loans of $77,202 and $54,000 to Sica from DeNaples' bank.
Sica also owed $16,500 to the bank for an auto loan on a 1996 Chevrolet Trailblazer, Eddie Bauer Edition, according to court documents.
Scranton Catholic Diocese spokesman William Genello could not be reached Thursday, and officials at the chancery said no one there was available to talk about Sica.
The diocese said Wednesday that Sica's arrest was ''deeply distressing.'' It said Sica would not celebrate Mass publicly and he was granted a leave of absence from his position as chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Scranton.
In addition to the money owed to DeNaples' bank, Sica's other debts included a $20,000 personal loan from LA Bank in Lake Ariel, Wayne County; a $15,000 personal loan from Community Bank & Trust Co. of Nicholson, Wyoming County; a $10,019 credit line from Associates Investment Co. of Charlotte, N.C.; and balances on Chase and Discover credit cards totaling $15,716.
Sica filed his bankruptcy petition in March 1997, but two months later he filed another motion seeking its dismissal. According to court records, none of the creditors objected and the case was dismissed in June 1997.
There's no record of repayment of Sica's debts.
Sica was arrested Wednesday at 430 Pittson Ave., Scranton, where he is in residence at St. Mary of the Assumption Church. He later was charged in Harrisburg with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury about his relationship with Bufalino, once described by a U.S. Senate committee as ''one of the most ruthless and powerful leaders of the Mafia in the United States.''
Sica testified he had no personal relationship with Bufalino, saying he met Bufalino in the early 1980s when Bufalino was hospitalized and Sica was a deacon visiting Catholic patients.
But according to the grand jury, Sica had a long-standing relationship with Bufalino, writing letters on his behalf seeking his release from prison following his 1982 conviction for conspiring to kill a mob witness.
The grand jury also said Bufalino attended a party celebrating Sica's ordination and the pair were photographed together at the party and at a barbecue. Sica and Bufalino are also seen in photos with William D'Elia, who according to the Pennsylvania Crime Commission took over as head of the Bufalino family after Bufalino's death in 1994.
D'Elia, who is in prison awaiting trial on federal charges of money laundering and conspiracy to kill a witness, testified before the DeNaples grand jury in July and ''was aware of a relationship between Sica and Bufalino,'' according to the grand jury report.
Reporters Christina Gostomski and Bob Laylo contributed to this story.