A Catholic priest in Pottstown, Pennsylvania is in hot, deep water after being busted for using a church credit card to support what is obviously some kind of an addiction.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 51-year-old Reverend Lawrence Kozak was charged with theft and other related crimes according to an affidavit of probable cause of his arrest. He has since been released after posting $250,000 bail. His attorney is reviewing the charges.

Investigators say an accountant working at Kozak's church discovered "an astronomical amount of Apple transactions” on the church's credit card statements while reviewing its finances in 2022.

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The purchases began reportedly back in September of 2019, right after Reverend Kozak joined the parish, and ended in July 2022. Allegedly, the Apple ID that purchased content in the amount of over $40,000 in mobile games like Candy Crush and Mario Kart Tour. 

Detectives also found the priest had an Amazon account that had used church funds to purchase items like a Fire Tablet for Kozak's goddaughter. The gifts included a note signed by "Uncle Larry."

At one point, Kozak had used his own bank account to pay off $10,000 off the church's credit card bill.

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In 2022, detectives spoke with Kozak and he told them he was seeking counseling for his mobile game addiction. He was clear that he hadn't spent money on gambling, but spent thousands of dollars on "power-up" and gain an advantage in various games.

Kozak denies intentionally using the church's credit card for the in-app purchases, saying that the church card was linked to his accounts and phone to pay church-authorized bills. He did say he may have accidentally used church funds to buy the power-ups, saying he wasn't "a details guy" and he was sorry "let it get to this point."

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He was removed from his position in November of 2022 after an internal investigation into the spending revealed his addiction.

After being removed, Kozak sent an $8,000 check labeled "parish reimbursements" to the new leader of the church. In a note, he apologized for his mistakes and planned to pay the church back.

Mobile app games are free and are psychologically engineered to be rewarding but just not rewarding enough without getting those "special boosts" to make your character faster or stronger than you'd be able to be without them. The process is often nicknamed "Freemium."

Believe it or not, South Park actually explained the business model perfectly in an episode.

Read more at Kotaku

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