Eau Claire (WQOW) - An Eau Claire woman has been charged with scamming a well-known priest out of more than $300,000.Channel 18
Cheri Hofkes-Zerwas is charged with taking the money from father John Schultz, he was the longtime priest at Saint James the Greater Catholic Church in Eau Claire.
According to court documents Hofkes-Zerwas told Father Schultz that she needed the money to keep her electricity from being shut off, she owed money to social security and she was being extorted by a number of people.
Police were tipped off by a branch manager at Associated Bank when Schultz began withdrawing large amounts of money.
Police found that over the course of a year Hofkes-Zerwas was given more $300,000. We spoke with the attorney for the Diocese of La Crosse who is representing Father Schultz.
He told us that Schultz was scammed and that all of the money he gave to Hofkes-Zerwas was his own, none of it belonged to the church.
The criminal complaint says that Father Schultz kept a detailed ledger of all the money he gave her and the reasons why.
This is the full statement WQOW News 18 received from Father Schultz:
My name is Father John Schultz and in response to the page one article in the October 8, 2014 Leader Telegram regarding Cheri Hofkes-Zerwas, I am the unnamed victim who gave her the money arising out of her false pleas of desperate personal financial need. I was scammed.
All of the money was personal and was inherited from my family. None of it came from St. James Catholic Church, Eau Claire, the Diocese of La Crosse, or any other groups or organizations in which I was or am affiliated. I did not have any inappropriate relationship with Ms. Hofkes-Zerwas.