Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

'Fake monk' on fraud charges 'had addresses for every monastery in the world'

A man accused of pretending to be a monk to infiltrate and con a religious community in Co Antrim had addresses for every monastery in the world, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors said the details were found on Francesco Ferro (27) when he was arrested for allegedly raiding Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey in Portglenone after arriving and moving in.

The 27-year-old Romanian, of no known address, is fluent in five different languages and used different aliases to travel across Europe, a judge has been told.

Ferro, who was also said to be under investigation in connection with other alleged thefts in Switzerland and Germany, faces charges of burglary, converting criminal property and multiple counts of fraud by false representation.

He was refused bail amid fears that he may flee if released.

Ferro was detained in July after police called to investigate a £500 theft from a room in the monastery allegedly matched his fingerprint to a broken window.

At a previous hearing it was disclosed that the accused first turned up in May when the Abbey was expecting the arrival of a Brazilian Benedictine Monk.

He had few clothes, one bag and a monastic habit with him which he wore and immediately fell into the monastery's routine, according to the prosecution.

One of the initial counts of burglary related to the suspected theft from a 94-year-old monk's room of £8,500 given by a parishioner for safekeeping. It was confirmed today that that charge has now been dropped due to the lack of any direct evidence to link Ferro.

But Crown Counsel Barry Valentine said prosecutions for other alleged frauds, including unauthorised use of the monastery's credit card, were continuing.

Ferro allegedly obtained food and return flights to Italy during his stay, and bought a local family a television, washing machine, microwave and other items.

Mr Valentine told the court: “It is notable that he was asked to leave the monastery after being detected yet came back the next day and committed further crimes in the monastery. I'm also told that among his possessions was a list of addresses for every monastery in the world, which would also suggest a risk of re-offending.”

A hearing to determine whether he will stand trial has been set for next month.

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