Priest pleads not guilty in Tulare church embezzlement case

The Catholic priest accused of stealing close to a half million dollars from a church in Tulare has pleaded not guilty to embezzlement charges.

Father Ignacio Villafan entered the plea during an appearance in court in Tulare Friday morning. He's charged with stealing $425,000 from St. Rita's Catholic Church. Villafan was arrested in December.

Tulare authorities say someone at the church discovered accounting problems and notified the diocese, which then reported problems to Tulare police. Charging documents say Villafan took money between 2005 and 2012. If he's found guilty, Villafan will face seven years in state prison.
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