A Catholic priest from Italy was arrested under suspicion of misappropriating over €99,000 ($117,000) in church funds.
The money was allegedly used to purchase drugs for gay sex parties he hosted.
According to The Times, Father Francesco Spagnesi—a highly regarded Roman Catholic priest from Prato near Florence, Italy—was under investigation when police discovered his roommate had imported from the Netherlands a liter of GHB, a central nervous system (CNS) depressant commonly known as the "date rape" drug.
The 40-year-old priest was placed under house arrest while authorities interviewed 200 people who have attended his lavish parties.
Suspicions arose when the parish accountant found that Spagnesi had withdrawn more than $100,000 from the parish's bank account, which prompted the local bishop to cut off Spagnesi's access to the funds meant for the church.
Police believe the money Spagnesi had withdrawn was going towards acquiring the drugs for selling and using.
For his parties, Spagnesi and his roommate allegedly looked through dating websites to invite guests to their home, where the drugs were used and sold.
When police raided their place of residence, they found bottles allegedly used as makeshift crack pipes for smoking crack cocaine.
Investigators said some parishioners donated as much as $1,700 because he was highly revered in the community.
The scandalous headline prompted Twitter users to treat the story as a punchline.
The local newspaper, La Nazione, said the parishioners have taken legal action to reclaim the stolen funds. The prosecutor's office has received at least two lawsuits for fraud, according to the paper.
Disappointed parishioners reportedly said they "had great faith in their young, brilliant, all-involving and refined priest."
According to Milanese daily Corriere Della Sera, Spagnesi disclosed his health status as a result of his actions.
An emotional Spagnesi told lawyers:
"I don't recognize myself anymore, the cocaine vortex has swallowed me."
"The drug made me betray my parishioners, it made me tell lies, it made me take actions that I am ashamed of. Now I'm HIV positive…"
The priest said he plans to return the money and is willing to sell his home to repay the parishioners.
"I ask everyone for forgiveness."
Spagnesi's lawyer, Costanza Malerba, said his client already confessed to supplying the drugs at his parties and he would be confessing to the misappropriation of church funds soon.