Local News

May 21, 2013 5:53 PM by Janine Reyes

Charity Bingo Investigation Brings Big Changes to Church

CORPUS CHRISTI -- A 6 News investigation into bingo charity events leads to big changes at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

At mass this weekend, Father James Farfaglia addressed the congregation about our investigation and his review of charity bingo events. He made strong statements about what he calls "a shady and dishonest" situation and that's why two groups associated with the church are now starting over.

Our investigation uncovered the Knights of Columbus 6174 and the Guadalupanas were providing very little of the proceeds from events at CC Bingo on Ayers to the church.

It seems the owners of the bingo hall, Adalberto and Minnie Pena are connected to those charities. The Penas are also the owners of the bingo hall and the shopping center where its located.

Under order from the Texas State Council of the Knights of Columbus, this particular chapter may no longer hold bingo sessions at the hall.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church cut ties with the Knights of Columbus 6174 and the father turned down a recent donation.

Father James told parishioners he asked Council 6174 and the Columbian Ladies of South Texas to turn over their financial documents after our story aired. Only the Knights of Columbus complied.

His investigation of those documents revealed what he called "a serious conflict of interest" that led the church to "distance itself from Knights of Columbus 6174" and start a new chapter that will meet at the church.

Betty Constante with the Columbian Ladies of South Texas, under a separate investigation by the Texas Lottery Commission, served as president of the Guadalupanas at the church. That's a group of women who do charity work.

She resigned after our initial story aired and the father is calling for a "spiritual renewal of the group."

"It's a sad state of affairs, when these people, apparently, all these people that were mentioned were supposedly the elite of our church," said longtime church member Nicole Segovia.

The father said "no former members of the Columbian Ladies of South Texas or Knights of Columbus 6174 can be a member" of these groups.

As for the new Knights chapter, the father will personally interview each man who wants to join.

Both the Knights of Columbus 6174 and the Columbian Ladies of South Texas advertised in last week's church bulletin, but it seems this could be their last.

Although our investigation into these two charities show such a small payout to the charity, that's not always the case with bingo events linked to churches.

For example, Holy Family Catholic Church brought in nearly $220,000 for their church with bingo. Its private school brought in more than $84,000 in charitable distributions with similar events.

Here's some legislation worth watching, Texas House Bill 2197 is in the Senate now and could bring big changes to bingo. Amendments made and distributed by the Senate Saturday include a required charitable donation of 5% of the gross revenue.

The Columbian Ladies of South Texas made less than 1% percent last year. The Knights of Columbus fell short, too.

But, the Holy Family Church donated more than three times that.

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