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Omaha police arrest local priest on two felony charges including alleged abuse of a vulnerable adult

Posted at 11:44 AM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 17:58:54-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The first of possible multiple charges came this week for Michael Gutgsell, a longtime priest in the Archdiocese of Omaha.

The 73-year-old Gutgsell is charged with theft of over $154,000 and the abuse of a vulnerable adult.

It stems from Gutgsell being a personal representative to a now-deceased priest’s finances.

Prosecutors said in court Friday, Gutgsell admitted to taking the money from former priest Fr. Ted Richling, during an earlier interview

His defense attorney Joseph Naatz said in court that Gutgsell was scammed and conned, and simply used the money to try and help out others.

“There’s zero dollars alleged that were used for his own personal gain. He used the money in a desire to help those that he viewed as less fortunate,” said Naatz.

Father Gutgsell served as chancellor, in charge of daily operations of the Archdiocese of Omaha for ten years, before serving as pastor of Saint Cecilia’s in Omaha and Saint Joseph's in Springfield.

Beadle said the case isn’t uncommon, but especially sad when it involves a trusted community leader.

“There isn’t anything remarkable about this except the parishioners I’m sure feel a sense of sadness and distrust,” said Beadle.

The archdiocese said in August their audit showed that Gutgsell embezzled money during his tenure at St. Joseph’s.

He resigned from the Archdiocese that same month.

Beadle said Sarpy County is also looking at charging Gutgsell, and the Douglas County Attorney’s office is working with Sarpy on the case.

He was released from jail Friday on his own recognizance.

READ MORE: Sarpy County pastor resigns after allegedly stealing more than $125,000 from parish and an estate

In an email, Archdiocese spokesman Deacon Timothy McNeil said, "The Archdiocese of Omaha will have no comment since the matter now belongs to law enforcement and the judicial system."

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