Diocesan Statement regarding financial investigation

JACKSON – Federal agents served search and seizure warrants on the chancery office and on St. Joseph Parish in Starkville on Wednesday, November 7. Their investigation centers on the financial activities of Father Lenin Vargas. As of this posting, no charges have been filed.
On Saturday, Nov. 10, and Sunday, Nov. 11, Father Jeffrey Waldrep shared the following statement with the parishioners of St. Joseph in Starkville and Corpus Christi Mission in Macon:
Earlier before Thanksgiving the government began an investigation of the financial administration of Saint Joseph in Starkville. Saint Joseph Parish and the Diocese of Jackson are cooperating with the investigation. Pending the resolution of the investigation, Father Lenin Vargas will not engage in any public ministry, and has been removed from all pastoral and financial administration. In the interim, Father Jeffrey Waldrep, the pastor of Annunciation in Columbus, will serve as administrator and Father Rusty Vincent will be responsible for all pastoral ministry at St. Joseph, Starkville and Corpus Christi, Macon. The continued spiritual and financial well being of St. Joseph Parish and Corpus Christi Mission is of the utmost importance, and we will continue to aid you both in sound fiscal management of all of your resources. Let us pray with trust that the Lord Jesus will shepherd us through this difficult time of upheaval and uncertainty.
After receiving complaints, Bishop Joseph Kopacz ordered an internal accounting audit of the Starkville Parish’s finances. After Bishop Kopacz’ staff conducted the audit, the Diocese placed fiscal constraints on Father Vargas’ spending and found that he was violating diocesan policy concerning soliciting charitable donations and demanded that he stop these activities and conduct no further charitable fundraising without first informing the diocese of these planned activities. Federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPPA, prohibits our discussion of Father Vargas’ medical condition — not only when we first learned of it, but also throughout the time period mentioned in the affidavit. In fact, HIPPA law continues to bind us today in that we can neither admit nor deny anything related to Father Vargas’ medical condition.
We ask that you pray for everyone involved as we continue to work toward a resolution.