PRAIRIE DU CHIEN - A priest has been accused of embezzling almost $200,000 from the Diocese of La Crosse and two Crawford County parishes, according to the Crawford County Sheriff's Department.

The Rev. Robert Chukwu, 59, was arrested today in La Crosse and faces a charge of theft from a business setting of more than $10,000 when he appears in Crawford County Circuit Court.

Diocese attorney Jim Birnbaum informed Crawford County District Attorney Tim Baxter on Jan. 15 that Chukwu had taken $196,000 from St. Mary Parish in Gays Mills and St. Philip Parish in Soldiers Grove and the La Crosse Diocese, according to the sheriff's department.

Chukwu, who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Nigeria, confessed to Birnbaum and another priest that he invested parish and diocese money in Nigeria for a better interest rate rather than sending it to the diocese, the department stated.

Along with the funds, Chukwu sent a 40-foot container filled with artificial flowers, candlesticks, pedestal tables, clothing and other items purchased locally to his family, a nun and a school in Nigeria, the department stated.

The items were purchased using insurance money and donations from the parishes and diocese for damages to the church from the 2007 flood, according to the department.

Chukwu is in the Crawford County Jail pending a court appearance.

He was transferred to La Crosse on Jan. 19 to "insure the necessary independence and integrity of the investigation," according to a diocese statement.

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