THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Priest sought riches online

FCC studying his marketing ventures on Web

By Maryclaire Dale
Associated Press / November 25, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA — A Roman Catholic priest suspended after federal agents seized a computer from his rectory has long sought riches online, where he sports a tuxedo and calls himself “Jerry from Philly.’’

The Rev. Geraldo Pinero endorses several so-called multilevel marketing companies on Facebook, blogs, and other online posts that include his real name, photo, and parish address.

The 46-year-old pastor also appears, sans religious collar, wearing a sweater or velvet blazer and talking about his goal of earning “extra income on the side.’’ He promises recruits they can make thousands of dollars a month selling candles, life coaching, or providing other services.

“Many folks are struggling financially during these very difficult economic times. This is why I have gotten involved in some unique, legit, and effective money-making programs — to help us get out of this awful financial rut,’’ Pinero said in hawking the candles.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia bans priests from such secular work, spokeswoman Donna Farrell said. Officials at the archdiocese were unaware of Pinero’s online activities, she said.

The Federal Communications Commission has warned that some multilevel or “network’’ marketing plans, which offer commissions for signing up other sellers, are dubious pyramid schemes.

None of the companies that Pinero endorsed have been charged with wrongdoing by the FCC, spokeswoman Elizabeth Lordan said Tuesday.

Pinero did not return e-mail messages this week seeking comment, and a brother in Philadelphia declined to comment on the raid.

Pinero leads the Incarnation of Our Lord parish in North Philadelphia, where Masses are said in English, Spanish, Creole, and Portuguese, and the welcome sign reads: “Where the world meets.’’

Parishioners, many elderly, speak warmly of Pinero as a hard-working, devoted pastor known as Father Jerry. The church’s ministries include a busy food pantry along with nursing and senior services.

“I am looking forward to great things in 2010,’’ Pinero wrote on his blog, endorsing one of the get-rich strategies, “along with good people to share them with.’’

On Nov. 16, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents descended on the church rectory, leaving with a computer. To thwart fears of a parish-related immigration raid, ICE spokesman Mark Medvesky disclosed that the investigation was a criminal matter unrelated to anyone’s immigration status.

Pinero stepped down after the raid “for the good of the parish, pending the outcome of this investigation,’’ the archdiocese said.

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