01.22.13

Monsignor Meth Kevin Wallin: The Kinky Priest Who Sold Meth

Amid reports of cross-dressing and having sex in the rectory, “Monsignor Meth,” was nabbed on charges that he used an adult novelty shop to launder a transcontinental drug enterprise. Michael Daly reports.
Monsignor Meth: Kevin Wallin
St. Augustine Cathedral, Bridgeport, Conn. (Lukascb via Wikipedia)

Sex toys, ruby red slippers, drug paraphernalia, and a Roman collar!

Those all were to be elements of The Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place, a combination adult novelty shop that Monsignor Kevin Wallin apparently planned to take over and move to a new location after he was suspended from his Bridgeport, Conn., parish amid reports of him cross-dressing and having sex in the rectory.

Add methamphetamine to the list, according to the government, which alleges that the 61-year-old cleric now dubbed “Monsignor Meth” used the store to launder proceeds from a transcontinental drug enterprise.

That charge is in a criminal complaint federal prosecutors filed after Wallin was arrested on Jan. 3. He had been just hours from departing on a 12-day trip London, imparting to his latest flock a new sense of needing a priest.

“Oh no 12 days what am I going to do. No supplys lol,” a customer had texted Wallin in a message intercepted by the government.

At St. Augustine’s Cathedral, where Wallin had been pastor until last year, news of his arrest must have seemed like an episode of Breaking Worse.

Diocesan officials had been shocked enough by the reports of cross-dressing and of visitors of similar inclination as well the discovery of what were described as “unusual sex toys” in Wallin’s residence. Now there were allegations that Wallin owned a store that sold such toys along with XXX videos. Even worse, he was charged not just with using drugs, but also with selling them, and on such a scale he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

And this was not just any priest in any archdiocese. Wallin had been the longtime personal assistant and closest confidant to Edward Egan when he was bishop in Bridgeport, the two of them often going to see Broadway shows in New York.  Egan had continued the archdiocese’s tradition of shuffling priests accused of sex crimes against children and of discounting the pain of the victimized. He reviewed the file of one priest named Laurence Brett, whose many young victims included 10-year-old who had been violated by being shown a crucifix and told that if he did certain exercises he could have abs like Christ.

“All things considered, he makes a good impression,” Egan reportedly said after speaking with Brett.

After Egan became Cardinal in New York in 2000, he issued what seemed to be an apology for the archdiocese of Bridgeport’s failure to act against the abuse. He remained so unpopular that he became the first cardinal in New York history not to remain until he died in office. He announced from his retirement that he had not really apologized after all.

Wallin may have been lowering the already devalued moral stature of the priesthood, but he seems to have brought unusual civility and consideration to drug dealing.

“I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong,” Egan said last February.

Egan’s oil portrait still hung on the very rectory where his Broadway buddy Wallin was said to be having cross-dressing sex.

“Some things were reported that may have raised questions about what his lifestyle was,” a diocesan spokesman later told the Hartford Courant. “There was some concern about visitors to the rectory and some suspicion that he might be involved in behavior contrary to that expected of a priest.”

Wallin was finally placed on sabbatical in July 2011. He was suspended after he failed to address what were only described as “personal and health issues.”

**

According to an affidavit submitted by DEA Special Agent Jay Salvatore that reads like a whole season of Breaking Worse, Wallin’s troubles with the law began year after he departed St. Augustine Cathedral.

As Salvatore recounts it, the DEA Office in New Haven was notified by its counterpart New York in July 2012 that “an unidentified Connecticut-based narcotics trafficker was involved in the distribution of ounce quantities of crystal methamphetamine the tri-state area.”

In September, the York office provided more specific information. A “confidential source,” identified in court papers only as CS-1, had told investigators that the dealer in question was “a Catholic priest named Kevin Wallin.”

Monsignor Meth: Kevin Wallin
Sacred Heart University/Diocese of Bridgeport (inset)

“CS-1 had met Wallin in early 2012 at a party and, thereafter, had negotiated an arrangement with Wallin, pursuant to which Wallin supplied CS-1 with approximately six ounces of crystal methamphetamine per week, at a price of $1,500 per ounce, which CS-1 redistributed to a customer in New York City,” Salvatore states.

Meth has never been big in New York as it has been out west in Breaking Bad land, though a fellow Catholic priest reports that the drug is very popular in a particular niche of gay men given to prolonged sessions of unprotected sex with multiple partners. There seems to have enough demand to make the purported arrangement profitable for Wallin and CS-1, but a complication arose after only six weeks.

“According to CS-1, Wallin is addicted to crystal methamphetamine, and Wallin’s employer had ordered Wallin to undergo rehabilitation in connection with his addiction, resulting in Wallin’s inability to reliably tend to his drug business,” the affidavit says.

The employer being the Archdiocese of Bridgeport, which has said through a spokesman that it was unaware that Wallin had a drug problem. Wallin made CS-1 a kind of drug dealer’s equivalent of a Eucharistic minister.

“CS-1 said that while Wallin was undergoing rehabilitation, Wallin, on several occasions, directed SC-1 to go to Wallin's residence and retrieve parcels from a California source-of-supply.”

Wallin is said to have placed CS-1 directly in contact with his connection in California, identified in the affidavit as Chad McCluskey. CS-1 then had what court papers describe as a falling out with Wallin over money. That may have led CS-1 to become a CS in the first.

The DEA in New Haven met with a Connecticut State Police drug task force, which used a second confidential source, CS-2, to introduce an undercover officer, or UC, to Wallin. The UC purchased two grams of meth for $440 from Wallin at his apartment on Golden Hill Street in Waterbury.

“While in Wallin's residence, the UC observed Wallin open a desk drawer inside which was contained small Ziploc baggies, spoons, and scales,” the affidavit states. “The UC also observed a large, gallon size Ziploc bag filled with what appeared to be crystal methamphetamine.”

The UC further observed that Wallin had a safe inside a closest. The affidavit says Wallin provided the UC with the numbers of two cellphones he would call if “he wished to purchase crystal methamphetamine in the future.” Wallin did not seem to be a neophyte in the ways of narcotics peddling.

“Wallin informed the UC that both telephone numbers were associated with prepaid telephones and could not, therefore, be traced back to Wallin.”

On Sept. 26, the UC texted Wallin at one of those numbers to ask if “I can come see u Friday.” The reply read, “Hi…You should be able to: however I can’t be certain if ill be home or in north haven–where I am buying the land of oz store. “

The affidavit suggests that Wallin had an “ownership interest” in the Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place in North Haven and “may have invested drug proceeds in the store and may intend to use the store to launder his drug proceeds.”

The next day, Sept. 27, the UC got another text: “Hi again…My tomorrow has become a bit more problematic not for you but for me...I have a crazy morning, which will end in North Haven. I will be there for most of the day...I could meet you in a place like a mall parking lot…I would plan to be all set at my end and just need a figure.”

A “figure” apparently meaning the quantity of meth the monsignor should bring. The UC texted “5.” A text in reply inquired if the UC wanted “5 grovers,” apparently meaning $500 worth, adding “Call me. I want to be certain I understand.”

The UC called and told Wallin, “I meant five grams.” Wallin was allegedly recorded suggesting the UC buy “an eight-ball,” an eighth of an ounce, or 3.5 grams, for $500. The UC proposed purchasing “two eights for a thousand.”

“I could do that if that’s what you want to do,” Wallin was recorded saying, adding that he would give him “two bags” inside a magazine when they met the next day.

As the hour approached, Wallin texted the UC, saying he was running late and, “I am in New Britain at the bank.” Investigators believe Wallin paid his California connection by placing money in a Connecticut bank in an account to which they both had access.

At 4:43 p.m., Wallin met the UC in the parking lot outside the Land of Oz. The UC handed $1,000 to Wallin, who allegedly handed him a magazine containing two baggies of meth that would test 98.5 percent pure. The UC got a text that evening.

“Hi…Thanks for coming out today. Sorry I was so rushed. But today was nutz. I forgot to mention that this batch melts at a low temp, so don’t use too Much heat.”

Wallin may have been lowering the already devalued moral stature of the priesthood, but he seems to have brought unusual civility and consideration to drug dealing.

The affidavit says the UC purchased another eight-ball on Oct. 11, this time at Wallin’s apartment. Wallin allegedly counseled the UC to only say he wanted to “come though” or “come over” when he called or texted seeking drugs because law enforcement knew such supposedly coded drug slang as “Tina” for meth and “pool” for eight ball. The UC saw a number of plastic bags of various hues containing meth.

“Wallin indicated that he prepackages crystal methamphetamine in various quantities and in color coded Ziploc bags,” the affidavit states.

The UC noted that the safe in the closet was open.

“The UC observed a bulk quantity of cash on the floor just outside the safe,” the affidavit reports.

The UC allegedly made two more purchases over the new few days, on the second of which Wallin did not have a premeasured eight-ball on hand. The affidavit says the UC watched hands that had so often dispensed the host at Mass now spoon meth with ceremonial care from a large baggie into a smaller baggie set on a digital scale in the kitchen.

“Adding and subtracting material until Wallin was satisfied that the small baggie contained 3.5 grams,” the affidavit reports. 

By then, the case was strong enough for a federal judge to authorize wiretaps on Wallin’s cellphones. The affidavit says the intercepts confirmed that Wallin was obtaining bulk quantities of meth from McCluskey and the Californian’s alleged partner, a self-described professional wardrobe consultant and closet reorganizer named Kristy Laschober. One of the early intercepts came just after Wallin deposited $38,000 in the bank and was heading home, where he allegedly expected a sizable number of customers.

“Just left the bank,” Wallin texted McCluskey. “Have a long line coming by. It’s going to be a crazy night.”

The intercepts that followed were periodic messages from Wallin’s customers interspersed with communications with McCluskey about drugs received and dollars owed. McCluskey at one point said they needed to make sure their scales agreed, noting that he used a “big food scale.” Wallin at one point said there had been a power outage so he needed to reboot his computer before he printed out a spreadsheet prepared by Laschober.

In another conversation, Wallin was recorded complaining about the spreadsheet to an associate named Michael Nelson, who would be indicted for allegedly assisting the drug enterprise.

“It’s got all kinds of mistakes,” Wallin told Nelson. ”So now I’m re-doing the math.”

As the holidays neared, McCluskey was recorded saying he wanted to straighten out any “accounting discrepancies” before he and Laschober went to see his family outside Chicago for Christmas. Investigators believe they used a code whereby an ounce was “a place setting.” It turned comical when fractions were involved, with Wallin speaking of “just shy of a place setting” and at another point of “a place setting and a half.” The matter was apparently settled by the day after Christmas.

“I am going for dinner in greenwich his evening and will be stopping at chad’s bank,” Wallin texted Laschober. “Will raise him by 3,110.”

McCluskey left a voice message for Wallin the next day about the promised $3,110, saying, “Kevin. Hey it’s Chad, um, I’m calling to see if you had a chance, but it doesn’t look like it from my bank accounts, to deposit that money, um, but if you could do it at some point today I’d really appreciate it, it’s in dire need.”

By Dec. 29, Wallin had apparently come through. McCluskey texted him, “thank you for the deposit…should i be putting things in motion for you, or are you okay until you return.” Investigators believe McCluskey was asking if Wallin had enough meth on hand. Wallin assured him, “I will be fine.”

When a worried customer texted a concern that there would be “no supplys” during the 12 days Wallin was to be in London, the monsignor allegedly reassured him that a neighbor across the hall named Kenneth “Lyme” Devries would be in charge of the distribution in his absence.

“Lol ok,” the customer responded.

By New Year’s Day, everything seemed fine with Laschober. She left a voice message saying, “Hey Kevin, it’s Kristy. Oh, my God, it's so cold outside…uhhhh, man, this is crazy here in Chicago. Anyway, just wanted to call and wish you a Happy New Years, ummm, and wish you a happy 2013.”

Two days later, having made one more sale to the UC and having introduced the UC to Devries, Wallin was arrested. His associates Devries and Nelson were also arrested, as were McCluskey and Laschober. They are scheduled to be arraigned in federal court during the coming week and will most likely plead not guilty.

**

The big bust of Monsignor Meth meant things broke from bad to worse for the good folks at St. Augustine’s Cathedral just when they had cause to hope things might be getting better. The last scandal was just beginning to fade and the irony had been draining from the signs in the parking lot that reserve spots for the priests.

“Violators will be towed.”

A diocesan spokesman said Wallin had been a “good and compassionate priest.” Wallin was remembered in the parish as an inspiring speaker. He had held a Q & A session about the Da Vinci Code. He had once put on a one-man show where he sang songs from 100 years of Broadway musicals.

All things considered, he had made a very good impression indeed.

But the depth of his betrayal became apparent on Friday night when you entered the cathedral, where some 100 of the faithful were gathered for a Mass in Vietnamese.

“Please respect them,” Father Ha Dinh Dang asked me.

He need not have asked, for the parishioners commanded respect with their quiet, earnest devotion. The Mass was the same as it would have been in English and the difference in tongues distilled the spirit that was supposed to be common in all Catholic churches in all languages. It seemed at once powerful and delicate, as is goodness itself.

Back in 2001 the cathedral had fallen into such disrepair that ceiling plaster rained down on the pews. Nearly $5 million was spent on renovating it back into grandness, but it would have been just a building without worshipers such as these. They are the standard by which to judge the man whose name was among those etched into a commemorative plaque just inside the main entrance.

“Monsignor Kevin Wallin.”

On a suburban strip mall a 20-minute drive away, what had once been the Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place stood between a closed community-newspaper office and the closed A Glam hair salon. The original owners of Land of Oz, who could not be reached for comment, had apparently closed down while Wallin was proceeding with plans to open at a new location. His company was named Rahab and Endor, apparently after two controversial women of scripture. Rahab is described as both a harlot and a person of faith. Endor is a sorceress who may or may not actually be able to converse with the dead.

The shelves now stood empty save for a few sex toys, some lube containers, a few DVDs, and a couple of glass pipes. A sign reading “Fantasy Boutique” made the darkened chamber seem all the more the desolate end of anything but the basest realities.

But there was a notice on the double glass doors that served as a reminder of one way in which this latest priest scandal does not break worse than so many that came before it.

“ADULTS ONLY...NO CHILDREN”