By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A suspended Roman Catholic priest accused of making more than $300,000 in methamphetamine sales out of his Connecticut apartment while running an adult video and sex toy shop pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal drug charge.
Kevin Wallin, 61, of Waterbury, admitted to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and was scheduled to be sentenced June 25. The prosecution and defense agreed on a sentence of 11 to 14 years in prison.
Prosecutors said the 61-year-old Wallin had meth mailed to him from co-conspirators in California and sold the drugs out of his Waterbury apartment last year. He also bought an adult video and sex toy shop in North Haven named Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place, apparently to launder the drug money, authorities said.
Wearing a beige prison jumpsuit and sporting a goatee and close-cropped hair, Wallin acknowledged in court that the drug operation involved nearly four pounds of methamphetamine. He said “yes” several times as the judge asked whether he understood the consequences of his plea.
Wallin, former pastor at St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport, appeared to have no supporters in the courtroom. He was led out of the room in handcuffs and remains detained.
Charges against four other people arrested in the case are pending.
“We’re glad to have resolved this part of the case,” Connecticut U.S. Attorney David B. Fein said outside the courtroom. “It’s a serious conspiracy charge involving a very dangerous drug.”
Wallin’s public defender, Kelly Barrett, declined to comment.
Dubbed in some media as “Monsignor Meth,” Wallin was pastor of St. Augustine Parish for nine years until he resigned in June 2011, citing health and personal reasons.
He previously served six years as pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Danbury until 2002.
“Msgr. Wallin’s guilty plea represents an important step in his coming to terms with his own actions and their impact on others,” the Diocese of Bridgeport said in a statement. “It is a difficult moment for all of us but we hope it is also the first step in rebuilding his life. We pray that he moves toward healing and wholeness.”
The diocese had suspended him from public ministry last May amid concerns by church officials about a number of problems with Wallin, including sexually inappropriate behavior with other men in the church rectory, Wallace said. Church leaders weren’t aware of Wallin’s involvement with drugs at the time of the suspension, diocese spokesman Brian D. Wallace said.
Wallace said Wallin now faces the prospect of removal from the priesthood by the Vatican, a process called laicization.
Wallin was arrested in January, and a grand jury indicted him and four other people on drug charges.
An undercover officer bought meth from Wallin six times from Sept. 20 to Jan. 2, paying more than $3,400 in total for 23 grams of the drug, authorities said.
Federal agents said they learned through wiretaps and informants about other sales Wallin was making.
On social media, people couldn’t help but compare Wallin with Walter White, the main character on the TV show “Breaking Bad,” who was making so much cash that he and his wife bought a car wash to launder their profits.
Also charged in the case were Kenneth Devries of Waterbury; Michael Nelson of Manchester; Chad McCluskey of San Clemente, Calif.; and Kristen Laschober of Laguna Niguel, Calif. Authorities say McCluskey and Laschober were involved in the shipping of methamphetamine to Wallin.
All four of those defendants have pleaded not guilty.
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