Just when we thought we had hit the bottom of the barrel with tragic news involving religious leaders…
Nicholas Chervyatiuk, a former Ukranian Orthodox priest now living in Chicago, was arrested and charged with ripping off a Nazi camp survivor suffering from dementia for more than $300,000.
Chervyatiuk was charged with theft and financial exploitation of an elderly person with a disability for allegedly draining the savings account of Nelly Bridgeman. She was a longtime member of his church, and he could face up to 15 years if convicted.
The allegations stem from a 2016 probate court case in which the Cook County public guardian alleged that Chervyatiuk was using Bridgeman’s money to support two restaurants he ran with a convicted drug dealer, his Brash & Sassy Inc. hair salon and his portfolio of Chicago-area rental properties.
At the time, Chervyatiuk was defiant about his use of Bridgeman’s money, saying in a probate court examination that year that he considered the money to be payment for care he provided to Bridgeman as her health and mental faculties failed.
“I think it was time for me to get paid… Nelly wanted it that way,” he testified.
After an August 2016 Tribune report on the case, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, one of three major Orthodox groups in Ukraine, removed Chervyatiuk from the clergy and barred him from serving as a priest.
That’s all very convenient to say when your victim has dementia… but, in fact, Bridgeman can talk about the experience and she absolutely does not want it that way.
Bridgeman, now 96 and living in a suburban nursing home, was said to be “delighted that Father Chervyatiuk is in jail and can’t hurt others the way he hurt her,” said Dawn Lawkowski-Keller, chief of the public guardian’s financial recovery unit.
“She has been so worried about her money and having him go unpunished for his crimes,” Lawkowski-Keller said. “Nelly certainly never wants to see him ever again and feels he is going to get what he deserves.”
Public Guardian Charles Golbert said the criminal charges add to a sense of justice for Bridgeman.
“This was an egregious case of financial abuse by a priest who was in a unique position of trust and authority over an elderly parishioner with dementia,” Golbert said.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. This man used religion, and his victim’s mental illness, to steal from her. The fact that she’s a Holocaust survivor only makes matters that much worse.
Chervyatiuk’s bail was set at $5,000, so he likely won’t be in jail for long even if he’s convicted, but if religion didn’t steer him in the right direction, it’s hard to imagine a jail sentence would scare him straight.