| Crime |

Defense Attorney: Catholic Parishioner-Turned-Scam Artist Had Drug Problem

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The Westchester Parishioner busted for a tax fraud scheme struggled with drug abuse, his lawyer Luis Fernandez tells Riptide. Pablo Gehr, 32, of St. Brendan's Catholic Church, conned over $200,000 from low-income and elderly individuals and members of his church. A judge sentenced him to three years in federal prison Tuesday.

"He has a history of substance abuse and a rough family life," Fernandez says. "But it's no excuse." The half Colombian, half German "natural salesman" drank heavily, used marijuana and cocaine, the attorney says.

Gehr offered to do clients' taxes for free, then had their refunds deposited into his own bank account. He was charged with 24 counts of forgery and fraud last January.

Fernandez alluded to the idea that Gehr had unnamed partners. "He took the wrap and didn't say anyone helped. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't."

Gehr will not appeal his 40-month sentence. Says Fernandez: "Nobody's happy about [prison time], but he left the court with his head held high."

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