Diocese: Santa Rosa priest accused of stealing $95K from parish collections

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For parishioners at Resurrection Roman Catholic Parish in Santa Rosa, the news is shocking and sad.

Their parish priest, 56-year-old father Oscar Diaz is accused of stealing at least $95,000 in collection money from five Northern California churches over the years, including Resurrection.

"It's upsetting. You come to church thinking the money is supposed to go where it's supposed to go," said parishioner Favian Iniguaz. 

Iniguaz and his fiance say Diaz was in their wedding plans.

"I wanted him to be the priest that married us. We have to find another priest," he said.

In a written statement from Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, the thefts first came to light last month after Diaz was involved in a car accident. 

Inside Diaz's car, authorities found more than $18,000 in cash, money that was traced to donations from Resurrection Parish.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

In his office, the Diocese found a dozen security bags filled with cash, $10,000 in mostly one-hundred-dollar bills in an envelope in a desk drawer. They recovered more money in Diaz's home. The grand total was more than $95,000.

The Diocese says the money was stolen from churches where he worked, including in Cotati, Lake County, and Ukiah.

"It is too bad they are tempted to take money that is not theirs," said parishioner Astrita Machado.

Bishop Vasa wrote: "There were and are a whole series of emotions which range from fierce anger to sadness, to confusion, to shock, and even to fear." 

Santa Rosa police investigated but have not arrested Diaz because the Diocese says, it's accounting procedures for donations would make prosecution difficult.  

On Monday, the Santa Rosa Police Department issued a statement saying based on some new information it would be contacting the Diocese again. 

Diaz has been suspended from the ministry.