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So this is some of the stuff from the church. This is John Brown. We're in a small warehouse in Missouri. He's given me the grand tour. These two barrels contain all of his books, everything John was showing me used to be inside Father Ryan's church. There are Bibles, credit cards that used to belong to former followers and bins and bins filled with religious outfits.


You see this jewelry and you see all these called buttons. Yeah, those are listed as stolen items that he stole from Sheila Anderson. We met Sheila last episode. She used to be one of Father Ryan's nuns, but after years, she left the abbey and sued him for money he'd taken from her. He refused to return a lot of her personal things, too. And here they were. I have all their diaries, all their notes, all their files.


This tour is another moment from the past year where I almost can't believe what's happening. I went to this warehouse in March 2019. I then I had been investigating Father Ryan for about a year. We emailed back and forth, but he still didn't want to do an interview. But I kept going. I wanted to figure out why he did this and if he defrauded followers, find out why he was still free. I had had such high hopes when I started reporting, but now here I was in a warehouse in Missouri with my boyfriend and someone I never met looking at Father Ryan's old microwave.


This microwave, for example, this is Indian food. And you could see a little cross here. Would you like to play a tune on it and see if you can inhale a demon?


No, I'm all right. This was the first time I met John Brown in person, but we talked on the phone off and on for months. He's got this tech millionaire outfit on loose jeans, a gray hoodie with a zipper and glasses.


Brown has this sense of urgency you can't ignore when you talk to him and his energy makes you want to try to stay at his level and keep up with the tour.


Like, for example, you see these plates. We're not even through everything.


There's thousands and thousands and thousands in this stuff come fake birth certificates, all kinds of stuff.


Each thing he shows us offers a bit of insight into Father Ryan's past. Some of these things are Father Ryan's and some of these things he stole from followers.


All this stuff is listed on a police report.


Now, how did I get it?


It was a good question. Why John Brown? I'd have to wait a while for an answer, but soon enough I would know why there was a police report. Father Ryan would face criminal charges in Missouri this time.


He'd actually spend months behind bars. But when it comes to Father Ryan, justice never seems to stick. From Niono media, I'm Alex Schoeman and this is Smokescreen Fake Priest. Father Ryan never really seemed to recover after Sheila Anderson won her civil case against him, he owed her money. More than one hundred and sixty thousand dollars that Casey lost would haunt him after Father Ryan abandoned his Abby in Iowa. He ended up in Armstrong, Missouri, a town of less than 300.


By then, the Waterloo Courier put their articles online. After Dennis McGee was done, all anyone had to do was Google Father Ryan, and you'd get the gist. So while this hung in the background, when Father Ryan and a small band of remaining followers moved to Missouri in 2014.


So you came to Armstrong? Yes, we did. OK. That was the spring of last year. Right.


You're listening to an official interview between Patricia Baldridge and Russell Harrison, a former sheriff's deputy in Howard County, Missouri. Patricia used to be one of Father Ryan's nuns. She lived with him in Illinois and Iowa. This abbey in Armstrong, Missouri, was her third time living with him. She had stuck with Father Ryan a long time. Right here. Patricia is telling Russ Harrison why they had to leave the abbey in Iowa.


They had to get out of it because the police were harassing us. Russell Harrison would be integral to getting Father Ryan arrested, the former sheriff's deputy video recorded multiple interviews with Baldrige. This one was from 2015. She said the church in Armstrong, Missouri, never really got off the ground because the local diocese put out warnings and they sent out their messages saying that he can't be trusted.


He's a liar. All this garbage type garbage, because I don't know if it's true.


Keep in mind, as you listen, in 2015, Patricia still believed Father Ryan was a priest. She didn't know he had never been ordained, but the diocese sure did.


And then they also told their prisoners have nothing to do with him. Don't go to his message. He's a fake priest and they are the face. Absolutely.


In the small town, word of a fake priest traveled fast. Father Ryan didn't help himself either. Rather than quietly arrive, he had to make a big show. Here's a resident of Armstrong.


He came to the city council meeting and that went over very poorly.


So Ryan actually walks into a city council meeting to introduce himself. It's such a Hollywood moment or something from, you know, one of those old time musicals.


People describe him taking charge of the meeting to complain about the town. He says their streets need to be fixed, their lawns are overgrown.


Things a priest doesn't have anything to do with Father Ryan's diatribe was met with contempt.


He had even insulted the mayor's wife and after that by the city pretty much turn their back on him. It's incredible.


It almost mirrors the music man's introduction to River City to a T warning residents that the path Iran is bad for everyone. Some people even said he called the good people of Armstrong stupid. How many of them do you think showed up to church?


And so not very many people came for masses. And so there weren't very many masses on the Web.


I mean, people are coming along, but one of the few people who does start showing up at the abbey pretty regularly was Russell Harrison. This was 2014, he'd become a Howard County sheriff's deputy in his retirement, before then he'd been a dentist and he and John Brown, the man who would end up with all of Ryan's possessions in that warehouse, went way back.


Russell Harris and I, we had been friends for about twenty five years or more. And he kept talking about this priest he was helping, John didn't know it yet, but soon he'd be helping this priest to. If it hadn't been for Russ Harrison, John Brown might never have met Father Ryan. One day in 2014, Russ asked John if he could borrow his Dodge pickup truck.


They wanted to go pick up church pews in St. Charles, Missouri.


Russ had been helping Father Ryan refurbish the rundown Methodist Church. It was going to be the newest iteration of the Holy Rosary Abbey. After that.


You know, Harrison said, we're having a grand opening of the church and I want to invite you and your family. So we did and we went into this strange looking church, three or three, Snoddy Street and Armstrong, Missouri Roun then took a seat in the new pews he helped deliver.


And out comes Father Ryan.


And then there was this guy up on the stage and he was dressed and as I recollect, white garments and some kind of thing on his head. And, you know, I'm not Catholic, so I don't know much about that. And he gave a service, and while I was giving the service behind him were two old ladies, and I knew them as nuns. And at the time, I didn't know their names, but they were very, very old.


It's like you could shake your finger and poke them in the chest and then fall over.


They may have looked weak to John, but these women were no pushovers.


They'd stuck out multiple moves and living with Ryan for years.


Maybe they wanted to spend the last years of their life deep in devotion to God, living simply to honor him.


Patricia seemed to love hearing masses in Latin, but John Brown, he was less impressed. He wasn't so interested in trying to follow a mass in a dead language.


He gives a sermon in Latin, so I have no idea what he's saying.


Still, he was polite.


This was a celebration of the church's grand opening, so he stuck around for refreshments. That's when he starts talking to Father Ryan.


John, unable to stop his Midwest neighborly instincts, offers to deliver some apples from an orchard he owns. It was just something he thought would be nice to donate, right.


Loaded up my truck, my Dodge Diesel. And I drove up there and I drove around behind the house and there was a porch on deck and I just kept handing boxes of apples off. Talk to Ryan and he took the apples and I drove away here.


John thought he was doing this priest a quick favor. No plan to ever see Father Ryan again, but they would end up in each other's lives for the long haul. John would fall back into Ryan's life fairly fast a year later, 2015, at the time, Patricia Baldrige, one of Ryan's longtime nuns, was in her mid 80s. The economy had gotten better since the recession, but Father Ryan seemed like he was struggling financially around this time. Patricia was thinking she should sell off some land to help.


I was going to sell this part of the farm. It was more than two hundred and sixty acres. Patricia tells Russ she believes it's worth about two and a half million. She also wanted to make changes to her trust.


Father Ryan saw an opportunity and pounced. He changed Patricia's trust. Then he adjusted which of her grown children got shares of the farmland. But for that paperwork to be legal, Father Ryan needed a notary, so he turned to someone he trusted. Russ, the former dentist turned sheriff's deputy, was also a notary. Father Ryan probably didn't think Russ would look at it too closely. He thought he just rubber stamp it. But after looking at the document, Russ had some concerns and there were some things in there that I thought should never, never be said, especially about your kids.


And I did. I figured that you really maybe better have your lawyer look at that and the lawyer advises her, don't sign it. Russ discovered Patricia not only plan to treat Father Ryan like one of her kids, but was even taking a share of her inheritance away from one of her biological children and giving it to Ryan instead. In other words, Father Ryan was to be the eighth child. And then without Joe, Father Ryan got his part. Father Ryan was set to get about a quarter of her estate, leaving the rest to be separated among her children.


Russ asked Patricia if she remembered who her successor trustee would be if she passed away. That's the person who distributes her stuff after you die, depending on how you set up your will now. Do you remember who the successor as trustee would be? That Dr.. My brother called my brother and Carol, I actually have Father Ryan. He was a successor, a successor, trustee for your entire state.


Patricia's eyes widened. She tilted her head back. She'd been focused on rust, the whole interview. But in this moment, she seemed really thrown. Father Ryan would have divide her assets after her passing. All she can do is turn to the camera and shake her head in disappointment.


I never intended to. I know you didn't know. You didn't intend that.


You can imagine Father Ryan's reaction back when Russ didn't notarize the new paperwork.


Father Ryan was very angry that day that you did not get it notarized. He said, why are you bouncing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth on this? Get it signed and get it done.


But Russ felt the need to defend Patricia. And I said, look, it's her life. It's her state. That's her children. She has every right to dilly dally from here to eternity.


But Father Ryan's anger wouldn't stay directed at the former Howard County sheriff deputy. He'd turn on Patricia to father. Ryan would get so furious, Patricia would end up calling Russ several days later, scared she wanted out. Russ picks her up one morning, he brings in a social worker to once the three of them were in the interrogation room, the social worker called one of Patricia's daughters.


We are currently both at the sheriff's department in Fayette, Missouri. Your mom called the sheriff this morning and requested that she wanted to leave the church once her kids are on their way.


The social worker and Russ started asking questions while they wait.


Were you scared for your life or were you scared for your life? In a way, yes, because. He got very angry with me one day. Patricia is a little hard to understand in this interview. She's a bit soft spoken.


I spent all I had on and, you know, I don't have any.


She tells them she spent all she had. She had given Father Ryan everything she could. How much was that?


What was possibly 200000 dollars.


Well, just last year, she estimates somewhere between 70 and 80 thousand dollars. Just last year, Russ decides this was criminal. So he convinced a judge to issue an arrest warrant. Father Ryan was charged with three counts of financial exploitation of an elderly person.


The bond was set at one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Father Ryan finally was in jail. But remember, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Father Ryan would have a trial. What do we mean? It's time for another meal from hello, fresh cheese smothered mushroom chicken. What's fun about ordering from them is that they give you a chance to try making something new, all the ingredients come in the package, sour cream, potatoes, OK.


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Base dot com promo code priest. Here was the moment people like Dennis McGee had waited years for, it was May 2015, Father Ryan Sainte-Anne, Scott Golinger, Randall Dean stocks seemed finally about to be punished. This was his mug shot in Missouri. Dennis was still at the Waterloo Courier. Then he drove nearly five hours to be at a preliminary hearing for the case. It caught the attention of local TV to ABC Seventeen's. Lucas Geisler was the only TV reporter in the room.


I remember that day because I know preliminary hearings are very rare. You are essentially presenting evidence on the stand for cross-examination to go forward. It's like a trial before we get to trial.


Father Ryan was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs wearing a bright orange jumpsuit. Dennis couldn't believe what he saw.


That's the first time I'd seen him in short sleeves. And he had a tattoo of a Playboy bunny on his bicep and an Indian princess on his forearm. And it was just like, man, what is going on here?


The local prosecutor made the case against Ryan using Russell as evidence. He brings us to the stand to tell the judge how Ryan tried to change Patricia's trust.


At least two of Patricia's kids testified to they worried for their mom. One of Patricia's daughters remembered her writing a 15 dollar check to Father Ryan that cleared for fifteen hundred dollars. It was the same scheme he'd used all those years ago in Edgerton, Wisconsin, when he added a zero to a thirty dollar check.


The prosecution presented a lot of evidence, but the case really came down to the alleged victim. People wanted to hear from Patricia Baldridge. She took the stand. The prosecutor had Patricia describer life at the Holy Rosary Abbey to set the scene.


Here's Lucas, the TV reporter, again. And she was very crystal clear on just a lot of the details of her life in Howard County. It always struck me that when they started to ask about the day she called the sheriff's office. She said she just didn't remember, she she didn't remember she didn't she didn't know why she called. She didn't know why she spoke to the sheriff's office that day. She just all of a sudden said, I don't I don't remember that.


Baldridge made a total reversal, Lucas said the judge didn't buy it.


He did say, I do think it's curious that Miss Baldridge has such good memory of what's going on in her life and yet can't remember the specific details. Suddenly parts of it as if to say, I think there's something going on here with Patricia and Father Ryan. And I just sorry. I just I just don't buy that. You don't remember.


All of a sudden the judge let the case move forward, even though the victim no longer claimed a crime had happened. Later, when Russ interviewed her again, Patricia stuck by the story she told in court.


Well, we'll stipulate again, though, that he did committed no crime against me, OK? And that's absolutely true. I will not live for or against anybody in a family, friend or foe.


I understand that during this interview, Patricia even complained Russ had arrested Ryan. She wished Russ would have just had her throw away the papers. She didn't want to go to court. But she explains that because he's a valid priest, she has a responsibility as a Catholic woman to protect Father Ryan.


Well, I'm pretty sure I am a Catholic. Understand. And your face, if he is attacked, I have an obligation to go to his exact.


Exactly. And that's what I did. I understand that Patricia doesn't understand why Russ is so focused on Ryan. While she feels the modern Catholic Church gets a free pass for how they've handled the child sex abuse scandal, her sordid lifestyles is despicable.


Sir Imposter's the whole nine yards and they get off scot free. Nobody pays any attention.


Russ asked Baldridge if she would have joined Ryan's church if he admitted to not being a priest.


Would you have followed his his leadership?


No, I would not have had to do with you. OK, he asked several leading questions like this, but then suddenly Russ asked a question seemingly out of left field.


If Father Ryan had been a homosexual and was using your your money to hire male prostitutes from Lebanon, Missouri, would you have followed him anywhere as a leader? No, I would not. And I would have said something fact. I should have said something to him anyway, but I didn't. Did he ever tell you that he was a homosexual? No.


No, he did not wait. What that interview took a turn, the whole case would take a turn at the time, I had no idea just how bizarre things were about to get. Even though Patricia Baldrige recanted on the stand. Father Ryan didn't get out of jail. Still, the past was about to repeat itself, the whole case fell apart, if they didn't have a victim, they didn't have a crime. But this time, Ryan didn't totally get away.


Instead, near the end of Ryan's time in jail, they charged him with something unrelated, the unlawful possession of a firearm. Police found a 38 caliber under Father Ryan's pillow during one of their searches. The prosecutor offered Father Ryan a plea deal.


It is December 20 3rd, 2015 at three 10 in the afternoon, Cynthia Souter presiding.


Here he is in court. Are, you know, by any other name for aliases, Father Ryan? The judge goes through all the questions they have to ask before they let you plead guilty to a crime.


How far you guys double masters and beyond? So you're able to read that motion? Yes, ma'am. Are you all right? I'm a Catholic priest. You're getting your how do you plead to the charge of plasty felony of unlawful possession of a firearm? Guilty.


Father Ryan pleads guilty, accepting the deal that lets him avoid more jail time instead of years in prison. He gets five years probation. But there's a big downside. Part of the terms of his probation forbid him from speaking to members of his old church, including Patricia Baldridge and Sheila Anderson. He cannot have any job at any nonprofit. He also cannot represent himself as any type of religious entity without first getting permission from his supervising officer. And before he can get that, Ryan must give the officer verifiable proof he's allowed to represent himself as a religious entity.


That means if he ever calls himself a priest or wears a white collar or monk robe sometime in the next five years without permission, he's violating parole.


Then the judge asks, what would be an important question, why would you be able to pay for Father Ryan still has fees and medical expenses left over from his time in jail.


I have no First Amendment right now.


But he tells the judge he'll share a plan to pay off the fees at the next expected day in court. So the judge lets him leave on probation with no money and no real place to go. Father Ryan gets an attorney out of Kansas City, and that attorney knew someone near Father Ryan, someone who could help him sort things out. He's a private investigator and happens to be the same person we met at the beginning of this episode in a warehouse in Missouri, John Brown.


And they knew that I helped people. And he said, is there any chance you'd go down and pick up this guy and help him out?


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It was a cold, snowy day in January 2016. John and his daughter Maria went to meet Father Ryan. Believe it or not, Maria is a private investigator, too. They met Father Ryan at a hotel in Columbia, Missouri.


The hotel that he was staying on the back end is a very shady hotel in town. His hair was disheveled and he reached a cigarette smoke. And I thought that was strange for a priest to be smoking that heavily.


And he did not want me to come in his room at all and help him get anything. So he would go in the room, close the exterior door just a little bit, bring something out, shut it.


Her instinct was to trust Ryan. She chalked up the odd behavior to him being in jail for nine months.


He just look like a moron. And he also looked like a person who had been incarcerated for a while. And then just adjusting.


Both Maria and John Brown believed Ryan was a priest. We got into the idea of helping him because of how well he communicated his story.


He was extremely convincing.


Ryan convinced them that there was a conspiracy to lock him up. The cops were out to get him. John and Maria decided to take him on as their client.


The Browns then go the extra mile. They put Father Ryan up in a vacant house. John Owens in Columbia, Missouri. I brought them in.


I got them clothes. I got them clothing. I got them furniture, fixed his car. And people say, why did you do that or do you do that? Well, I did it out of the goodness of my heart. But he also said he's going to pay me back.


John told me this strong sense to give comes from this moment where God came into his life and made him decide to quit alcohol.


And God, it's really blessed me with my business. My investigation business really blessed me. And so I just kept giving away and giving away and giving away and and I swear, the more I gave away, the more I got back. The problem was Ryan got accused of not telling his probation officer where he moved. Ryan claimed he told Russell Harrison, but he also hadn't paid the fees. He promised the judge he would. So we got arrested again this time because his probation officer didn't know he was living at John's place soon Father Ryan's back in court making excuses to the judge.


She isn't having it. And did you ever have work?


No. OK, and you still don't work? I'm disabled. And you don't work. No, I don't.


Now, he tells her he's disabled and can't work for years. Father Ryan has claimed to struggle with his heart, PTSD and a bunch of health issues in court docs. It's possible he's being honest here, but he also claims to have had so many well-timed heart issues, usually right before a court appearance, that it's hard to know what's true since he doesn't have the money.


The judge doesn't want to set him free for five thousand six hundred ninety eight dollars and six cents, and that is for court costs and medical bills. I have no thought that he'll pay that if he's allowed out and he doesn't stay in touch and we never know where he is.


The judge makes a surprising move and reads a letter during the hearing.


It's from one of Patricia Aldridge's daughters. Here's the judge reading it.


Dear Judge Souter, I'm writing to you regarding allowing Ryan S. and Scott gaveling her out on probation and have followed the saga of this man for a number of years since my mother was first enamored with his promises and we believe, brainwashed. Well, I realize he is not on trial for scamming my mother or any of his other many victims. His history of leaving the state and our country went on probation and on bail speaks to his untrustworthiness. Father Ryan is forced to hear his alleged crimes before the hammer gets dropped.


He spent about five days in Snowflake, Arizona, on a commune called the Refuge, run by Marven. Is it Sarah? Ryan pretends not to know how to pronounce his name. How you say that, Mr. Gallagher. Know how you say it? I don't know. He's immediately caught in a lie here because of the next line in the letter.


One of the first people that gabbling her had our mother call when he was arrested was Marvin Kucsera. The judge seems to review all the accusations against him, his adult adoption, the check he changed in Wisconsin, threats against the La Crosse dioceses, the bankruptcies. The judge gets to the end of the letter.


We are very concerned that if allowed to be out on probation again, he will once again con people out of their money, including our mother, as she still cannot understand his con. Therefore, we request that Y. S. and Scott gabbling or is not released on probation, but maintain in jail for the duration of his sentence.


It really sounds like he's finally going to go to jail. The judge isn't going to let him go unless he pays.


I'm just not going to the county, be on the hook for almost six thousand dollars. And this man doesn't show up when he's supposed to show up for court. He's got seven years hanging over him. And if we can't work out a plan, I mean, I'm going to ask the prosecutor to consider filing a motion to revoke that's where we are, because he might as well go to prison if he's not going to pay. Five thousand six hundred and ninety eight dollars and six cents, that's how much Ryan owed all these years, charges of fraud, misconduct in public office, financial exploitation, and what's finally going to get him is legal fees.


Ryan had no money, but his lawyer tried to buy him time. I think my client is open to working. OK.


The judge offered a quick break.


I'll be happy to give you time to talk to him and to share. That would be great.


Take him in one of these rooms and talk to and we'll go off the record with these extra minutes. Give Ryan time to figure something out or would he be spending the next seven years in jail? Believe it or not, the answer has something to do with that tour of a small warehouse in Missouri.


The church was filled with this stuff, so I bought the church. Yep, he's serious.


John Brown bought the whole church. He thought what he would find inside could help prove Father Ryan's case. Talk about going the extra mile for a client. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do to help out Father Ryan. Anything. Just wait till you hear what else he did that day in court.


Next time on Fake Priest, at the time, my daughter and I both thought he was a priest, but for real, and we thought these police were doing them wrong and, you know, trodden on his rights as a priest, we still believed him 100 percent.


But then John finds something that makes him think he might be helping a criminal.


He's got old time religion.


There is his cash in a coffee can and he makes his decisions down on his knees.


He's a full grown man and he's a fake priest is a production of Niono media. It is reported and hosted by me. Alex Shulman. The executive producer is Jonathan Hirsche. Lead producer is Natalie Ryn, associate producer is Kate Myshkin. Catherine St. Louis and Vikram Patel are our editors fact checking by Laura Buller's. Thanks to Matt McGinley for our theme music and DeBlois Sessions, four tracks you hear on this episode, Sound Design and Additional Composition by Jesse Pearlstein.


And the song you're hearing now is Old Time Religion by Parker Milsap, our engineer Scott Somerville.


It's a special thanks to Peter Manseau and Cheryl Morris.