By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

WORCESTER (CBS) – A Rhode Island man is behind bars after he admitted to swindling elderly nuns out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve was the only TV reporter in the court room when the nuns from the small Catholic school told the judge about the trauma and heartache they experienced.

Eighty-year-old Sister Helen Taddeo wept as she talked about what 39-year-old Michael Hlady had done to her and the school where she worked for decades.

“Every day I live with this nightmare, and the thought that this man betrayed people who trusted me is beyond understanding,” she said.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports.

In January 2010, Venerini Academy, a private primary school in Worcester, hired contractors for $3 million in renovation work.

Hlady promised the nuns he had found a wealthy donor to cover all the costs, but this claim proved to be part of a sophisticated web of lies.

He told the nuns the wealthy donor was Arthur Remillard, the founder of Commerce Insurance, who had donated money to other Catholic schools in Massachusetts, but Remillard knew nothing about it.

In what he admitted was an elaborate scheme including phony documents and phone calls where he would impersonate Remillard, Hlady duped the nuns into paying him his fee of $363,000. The scam left the school almost penniless while unpaid contractors filed lawsuits.

“There is no excuse for my actions, nor do I downplay what I did,” Hlady told the hushed courtroom. “And it would be foolish for me to say I never meant to hurt them, when I obviously did.”

The judge sentenced Hlady to two and half years in prison but with time served he will be out in as little as seven months.

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office handled the case.

In the short term, Venerini Academy has survived this nightmare. The school will open in the fall but, without a generous donation, will face years of financial hardship.

Comments (6)
  1. Harry says:

    I feel bad for the school and the nuns. However, the unheard from victims are the building contractors who bid the work and did the work with the understanding that their contracts would be honored.

  2. Stephen says:

    Just notice to contractors – you still have time, and a reason to now turn down building the casino from where this scamming all got started.

  3. giselle says:

    although wonderful news this jerk is going to jail, it would be twice as nice if he could pay back the school. he left them scrambling and being in jail doesnt pay the bills.

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