Charged with a felony: Greek Orthodox priest accused of improperly spending funds from trust account
MILWAUKEE/GLENVIEW, ILLINOIS (WITI) — A Greek Orthodox priest, who used to serve in Milwaukee, accused of improperly spending more than $110,000 from a private trust has now been criminally charged.
62-year-old James Dokos — who currently lives in Chicago, was a longtime pastor at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Milwaukee.
He was transferred to the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Glenview, Illinois in 2012 — where he most recently served.
Last month, Dokos was placed on unpaid administrative leave and was suspended from his duties as parish priest at the church in Glenview.
Now, Dokos is facing a criminal charge — theft (embezzlement), value exceeding $10,000 — a Class G felony charge.
The criminal complaint filed against Dokos says between July 2008 and October of 2012, Dokos improperly spent funds from a Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church trust fund.
The complaint against Dokos says a Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office investigator spoke with the president of the Parrish Council at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on W. Congress Street in Wauwatosa.
That individual informed the investigator that the financial and business functions of the church are controlled by the Parrish Council — and that in 2013, the Parrish Council discovered that Dokos had taken monies left to the church by a trust — and had converted the monies to his own use without the knowledge or consent of the church — according to the complaint.
The complaint says the trust was established by Ervin and Margaret Franczak — and during their lifetimes, they funded the trust and acted as trustees.
In 2004, the complaint says Margaret Franczak, who was the surviving trustee, amended the trust, and named Dokos, who was the priest at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church as successor trustee in the event she was unable or unwilling to serve as trustee.
The complaint says in May of 2007, the trust was amended for the final time, when it was determined that the assets of the trust would be distributed as follows:
- $5,000 to the trustee for all work done by the trustee
- Any automobile and real property, as well as the contents of the real property would go to Dokos — as long as he survived the grantor.
- $5,000 was to be paid to the American Cancer Society, Florida Division
- $10,000 was to be paid to a church in Clearwater, Florida
- $5,000 was to be paid to the American Heart Association
- The rest of the money was to be used exclusively for the construction and maintenance of a cultural center at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
The complaint says after Margaret Franczak’s death, Dokos became the trustee for the trust.
Consistent with the terms of the trust, a condo, its contents and a vehicle owned by Margaret Franczak were liquidated and the proceeds (in excess of $40,000) were paid to Dokos.
The complaint says Dokos opened a bank account in the name of the trust in March of 2008 — and, consistent with the terms of the trust, wrote himself a check for $5,000. The complaint says he also made the payments to the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Florida church called for in the trust.
The complaint says in July of 2008 — Dokos wrote a check to an attorney — the same attorney who had drafted a number of the amendments to the trust — in an amount exceeding $27,000.
The complaint says Dokos also wrote himself a check for $25,000 — contrary to the terms of the trust.
The complaint says in September of 2008 — Dokos wrote a check to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in excess of $1 million.
The complaint says Dokos also submitted a “Waiver of Accounting and Receipt of Beneficiary and Consent to Release Father James Dokos Jr. as Trustee” — to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church’s 2008 Parrish Council President — who signed the document.
The complaint says the 2008 Parrish Council President was led to believe (by Dokos) that the church had received all of the funds it was entitled to from the trust — and that he should sign the document.
The complaint says the 2008 Parrish Council President was unaware the trust had assets beyond the $1.1 million paid to the church by Dokos — and the Parrish Council President said when he learned there was over $100,000 in assets held by the trust after the document was signed, he said Dokos never made him aware of that — and never asked whether these monies could be kept by him, and used at his discretion.
The 2008 Parrish Council President said “he relied on Dokos, because he was the parish priest” — according to the complaint.
The complaint says the District Attorney’s Office investigator spoke with the 2013 Parrish Council President, who said the theft of the monies from the trust, allegedly by Dokos, was not discovered until 2013.
The complaint says in February of 2013, Dokos contacted the church about an insurance refund that had been paid to the church. That’s when the Parrish Council President discovered the insurance bill in question was paid for with a check written by Dokos from the trust account.
The complaint says the 2013 Parrish Council President, who had been the treasurer of the Parrish Council in 2008, said he was unaware monies remained in the trust — saying he believed the trust had been completely closed in 2008.
The 2013 Parrish Council President then worked with an attorney, who is a member of the church’s congregation, to draft a letter to Dokos requesting a copy of the trust as well as cancelled checks and tax returns.
The complaint says Dokos sent the 2013 Parrish Council President an email that said, in all caps: “I STOLE NO MONEY.” Dokos apparently told church officials the insurance item was a result of a voided check for a medical bill — and that this was his money alone — a statement the complaint says is untrue, because the check was written from the trust account, and trust records show Dokos never deposited personal funds into the trust fund account.
The complaint says Dokos told church officials he was awarded an additional legal percentage as the trustee — and that he kept this money in his trust checking account for his use — something the complaint says isn’t true, because the $25,000 check that Dokos wrote to himself beyond the terms of the trust was never deposited into the trust account.
Additionally, the complaint says Dokos’ income tax records show he never declared the $25,000 as income.
The complaint says Dokos told church officials he wasn’t hiding anything — because the trust bank account was opened using the church address — something the complaint says was true, until December of 2008 — when the address was changed to Dokos’ home address in Brookfield. The complaint says statements were sent to that address until February of 2012, when the address was changed to an address in Chicago — where statements were sent until the account was closed in October of 2012.
The complaint says Dokos told officials that the funds taken from the trust were used by him for gifts to the parish, the Metropolis and the Retreat Center — saying that all of this was done with the knowledge of an individual who was on the Retreat Center’s board.
The complaint says the investigator spoke with the Retreat Center board member — who said he was on the Parrish Council when the Franczak’s gift was received in 2008. That individual told the investigator there was never any discussion of Dokos retaining funds from the trust to use to make gifts to the parish — or anywhere else.
The complaint says this individual told the investigator the church was “in dire financial straits in 2008” and that they “never would have agreed to let Dokos retain any of the trust monies due to the church.”
The complaint says a review of the trust fund’s assets showed that after Dokos wrote a check to the church for $1.1 million — he retained more than $45,000 in the trust account. The complaint says the trust fund continued to earn income from two annuities held by the trust through April 2012.
The complaint says despite the fact that the terms of the trust provided that any and all remaining funds in the trust should go to the church — Dokos retained control over those funds.
The complaint says during the period from August 2008 through October 2012, Dokos spent more than $110,000 — writing checks outside the terms of the trust.
The complaint says “a great deal of this money was spent on clearly personal expenditures.”
The complaint says Dokos wrote three checks to his daughter and six checks to his mother. Additionally, the complaint says he paid his own Time Warner Cable bill with trust funds. The complaint accuses him of using trust funds to pay a number of his own, personal medical expenses — and he wrote five checks to himself.
The complaint goes on to say Dokos used trust checks to pay his credit card bill — totaling $57,000. He is accused of spending $5,000 worth of trust money on jewelry for his wife. The complaint says this jewelry purchase coincided with the changing of the trust fund address to Dokos’ home address.
The complaint says additional trust money was spent by Dokos to pay for trips for his wife and daughter, shopping at stores like Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, Dior and David Yurman and decorating his home for Christmas.
The complaint accuses Dokos of spending $20,000 at upper end restaurants — often at Fleming’s in Brookfield.
The complaint refers to the three church officials who told the investigator they were not aware Dokos kept monies from the trust — and did not give him permission to do anything with the trust assets — other than pay them over to the church.
The complaint says in 2008, there were 15 members of the Parrish Council — 14 of whom are still alive today.
11 of the 14 told the investigator they had no knowledge there were funds from the trust that Dokos kept — and they said because the church’s financial situation was so bleak, they would never have allowed Dokos to divert any of these funds for his own use.
The complaint says there were two individuals who were on the council who said they believed the council was told by Dokos there were additional funds — and that he was given permission to use these funds at his discretion — for church purposes.
The complaint says Dokos did have a pastoral checking account, and a pastoral credit card that he was authorized to use for church purposes. This account was funded from regular church revenues.
The complaint against Dokos says no one on the Parrish Council indicated the council had given Dokos permission to spend the trust funds on personal purposes.