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Nov 24, 2011 9:33 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP

La. priest arrested on theft charge

NATCHITOCHES, La. (AP) - A Roman Catholic priest who was the pastor of a Natchitoches church has been arrested on a charge he stole more than $250,000 in church funds.

The Louisiana State Police says Father James Foster was booked into the Natchitoches Parish jail on one count of theft following his arrest Tuesday.

The Diocese of Alexandria says Foster resigned in October as pastor of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Church after an analysis of church financial records revealed that a "substantial" amount of money was missing.

State police said it launched an investigation at the diocese's request.

"We are following the Diocese of Alexandria's policy of openness and transparency concerning this matter and all diocesan and church officials are cooperating fully with all civil authorities," Bishop Ronald Herzog said in a statement.

The 66-year-old priest allegedly stole the money by issuing checks to himself and using the church's corporate credit card account.

Police said the theft dates back to January 2008.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said she didn't know if Foster has an attorney.

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