Jerome Dimitriou, former executive director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese...

Jerome Dimitriou, former executive director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, at the St. Nicholas National Shrine in New York on Aug. 10, 2017. Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

Federal prosecutors said Monday that a Greenlawn man who once served as top administrator of a national religious organization embezzled more than half a million dollars from the group toward the end of his 17-year tenure.

Jerome Dimitriou, 55, former executive director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, was arrested Monday and appeared in U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger’s Manhattan courtroom to answer two counts of wire fraud.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, prosecutors said. Dimitriou was free on $150,000 bail.

“As the executive director of a non-profit religious organization, Jerome Dimitriou was supposed to serve the organization, not himself,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District, in a news release. “As alleged, over several years, he abused his leadership position and embezzled over half a million dollars through two different schemes.”

His attorney, Nathaniel Marmur, said his client has served the church for much of his life.

“Jerry Dimitriou has dedicated his life to the church,” Marmur said. “We eagerly look forward to all the facts in this case coming to light.’

But prosecutors said Dimitriou siphoned $488,290 in one scheme by “directing subordinates to issue him unauthorized excess salary payments” and another $61,286.20 through “hundreds of personal expenses” charged to his organization’s credit card. 

Those purchases included 204 charges for airline travel with his family, “552 iTunes charges; at least approximately 71 charges for a gym membership at David Barton Gym; and at least approximately 44 retail charges, including at such stores as Sears, Home Depot, CVS, Duane Reade, Walgreens, and Vitamin Shoppe.”

Prosecutors said that the alleged salary enhancement scheme took place from 2013 through September 2017 while the alleged credit card scheme took place from May 2011 to September 2017.

Dimitriou was executive director of the organization from 2000 through 2017.

In a Sept. 8, 2017, letter posted on the website for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Demetrios Geron expressed “regret” upon accepting Dimitriou’s resignation, saying he had “contributed in a most significant way to the improvements of the Archdiocese ministries and operations” since he joined the administration in 1987 as associate director of economic development.

Monday, the Archdiocese said in a statement though Stavros Papagermanos, a spokesman, that it "first became aware of these financial irregularities in late 2017,” and "immediately self-reported its discoveries to governmental authorities" and cooperated with investigators.

It added that a special committee appointed by the Archdiocese to review finances found no theft from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the National Shrine at the World Trade Center. Dimitriou had administered the rebuilding of those facilities.

The website said that the archdiocese includes 540 parishes, 800 priests and approximately 1.5 million members.

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