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Father Ryan is under the spotlight, literally my spotlight. We've been talking in this conference room for over an hour now. I brought microphones to our interview, of course, but I also brought my camera in studio lights. I knew Ryan would like that. He clearly came to perform. Ryan's freshly cut white hair makes him look like he's in his 60s, which falls in line with the two birthdays I'd found for him, he said. A black plastic storage bin on a small table next to him, files and papers stuck out of it.


Inside, he claimed to have proof of his priesthood. I have no idea what that could be.


That's one of the things I've been trying to sort out since I began investigating him two years in. I was confident he's not a priest, at least not ordained the way he claims to be.


I decided not to immediately go after Ryan with what I'd found instead, I wanted to see what he'd do, see this so-called proof. This would be my moment to hear Ryan's pitch to his followers. Let him try to convince me. Then I'd get to my questions, things I'd wondered about for years. What does he have to say to his victims after being caught so many times? Why continue to insist he's done nothing wrong in this final episode? We'll hear his answers from neonate media.


I'm Alex Shuman and this is Smokescreen Fake Priest.


The apprehension and hesitation he had at the start of the interview was gone. Ryan had already told me about his abuse and shared deeply personal things. It's at this point I asked him about getting ordained.


So you were ordained to be a priest and Benedictine order St Benedict and that. What form of Catholic Church? Traditional. Traditional. Yes, not the Vatican. It's the Vatican. It's the pre Vatican.


OK, Ryan is at least not pretending to be part of the mainstream Catholic Church. But then he says the fact he's ordained has already been proven because it was verified through Father Koontz and Cardinal Gagnon. Both those people are dead. So there's no way for me to ask them convenient. But Ryan still has more to say on this subject.


I want to just take a minute here. He puts on a pair of glasses. Absolutely.


Because my priesthood has been questioned.


Ryan then pulls an enormous black book out of the bin. He brought with him to the interview.


He's got an orange Post-it note marking the specific spot, Canon Law Canon 10 10, Section one. Ryan's reading to me straight from this big book he brought upon completion of ordination.


The names of each of the ordained and of the minister of ordination shall be noted along with the place and day of ordination in a special book Diligently Maintained and the Curia Rome of the place of ordination and of all the documents of each ordination shall be accurately preserved.


He is actually reading canon law. To me. Those are the laws within the Catholic Church. These are the rules Ryan claims to follow, giving an authentic certificate of this order received.


They if they were promoted by an outside bishop.


The gist of what he's saying is that once a priest is ordained, they get a special certificate and it's stored in Rome without a notation of the ordination can be made in a special book to be preserved in the archives, he slams the book bookshop, sets it in the bin and picks up a certificate protected by a plastic frame.


I have my parchment from Rome. Signed. Ecclesiastical authority, it has the raised seal, it's a larger certificate with the picture of Pope John Paul, the second on the front. At first I'm confused why the pope would be on the certificate. I see the words ordination and the date on the bottom is nineteen ninety three. But it's all in this font that looks like it's pretending to be cursive sort of medieval.


He then turns the certificate around and shows me the back behind the Pope's picture on the original certificate, which this is. In blue ink is stamped the library, book, volume, chapter and page number where my ordination is written and recorded in the Vatican.


He's saying this is it. This certificate he's holding up is the proof. And right there on the back are numbers that are supposed to indicate where it's located in the Vatican. As he's pointing to the blue ink, he leans to the side and grins. He wants me to be wowed.


So if you want to call me a liar and you want to call me a phony, then you're calling the church because this was done under Vatican to rights.


My reaction probably isn't what he wanted.


And so what's confusing about that for me is if you were you had said that this was separate from the pope and that you are not a priest of that Catholic Church, why would it?


Because at that time I would it be in the Vatican? Because at that time. The split within the church hadn't really taken full effect. Ryan wasn't making sense. He claimed to be ordained in 1993, that was almost 30 years after the split in the church. He's talking about it hadn't taken effect yet. And then let's talk about this certificate he holds up. I'm interested in that blue ink on the back. Ryan challenged everyone to go ahead, look up his ordination in the Vatican library.


I would try to later, but I also did something else. I Googled it. You can go to the back, read Library, Baylor, DETI. And then there was a long Italian word followed by four dash A, dash B, dash C, then some numbers and then the city Roma. This would totally look like it referenced some fancy Vatican Dewey Decimal System to your average American. But a quick search and anyone can see the number is actually the address of a bookstore.


The store is called Beiler DETI Library. It's a short 15 minute walk from the Vatican. Ryan was using a souvenir from a bookstore. As his proof. Later, I was so annoyed, I didn't think, to Google it when I was with Ryan in person, but I also didn't think it'd be that easy to disprove. Now, you heard how Ryan described the certificate, he's making it sound like these are his ordination papers. He moved his hands in front of them all fast, almost like a magician doing a card trick.


But when you actually look at the front of where the pope's picture is and really read it, it's a fake blessing from Pope John Paul, the second celebrating the day Ryan was ordained. Anyone can buy this souvenir. I read the form you fill out to get one, you could have literally bought this thing whenever, but this is what he held up two years in. And you'd think I couldn't be surprised by anything Ryan does anymore. But I am the proof is so flimsy and so brazen.


But Ryan said he had one more piece of proof to show me.


That's my first ordination. This document looks much more real. The paper is Browning with age, but it's from the American Catholic Church, which I know kicked him out. I'd seen his excommunication papers.


I emailed Ryan when I found out his certificate was a souvenir, but he never directly addressed it. He kept emailing me, though. The closest he came to commenting was the day before the first episode of the podcast came out. The trailer had been out for about two weeks. He didn't explicitly say he'd heard it, but he started ranting in his e-mail that the Catholic Church has won yet again. It's unclear if he's accusing me of being in the pocket of the church or not.


Ryan wrote, I simply cannot compete with their money, power and influence, and therefore I am simply a degraded loser.


I have talked to and read the accounts of about a dozen of Ryan's victims, most of them didn't want to be part of this podcast. They were too embarrassed, too afraid to share their story or wanted nothing to do with Father Ryan anymore. All of those people, every single one told me they originally believed that he was an ordained Catholic priest. They all felt they were helping a man of God. Instead, Father Ryan had rob them of their trust.


He'd taken so much more than money. Ryan had used things familiar to believers like a Latin mass to lure them in. One of the old followers told me a monk who traveled with Ryan admitted that he and Ryan would rehearse the sermon again and again until Ryan had the Latin down. Perfect.


You cannot be sure his Latin's on the up and up that you can't read it if you can't read it yourself and hear what he says. You know, the parts I could hear sounded all right.


Fight a bar with someone dedicated enough to her faith to give Ryan's church a try. Back when she and I went to the abbey where she lived in Pocahontas, Iowa, I asked Vida how Ryan affected her. Did living here and everything you went through with Father Ryan changed your faith at all? He didn't change my. It was just very disappointing. I mean, God is still God, even if his people don't act the way they should. And some people aren't his people, for Viter, searching out people like Ryan would become a mission.


She'd been a paralegal. So the research wasn't hard. Ryan wasn't the only fake she had her sights on, but he was the one who made her realize the best way to serve. Her faith may not be as a nun. Instead, she wanted to get people to look at the evidence, to see these men and understand the damage they're doing. She wanted Ryan to be exposed and caught in his lies. That's why she was so excited when I said I was going to interview him.


You heard him read Canon Law earlier. He claims to be an expert in the interview. It's actually this claim that leads him to make a mistake. He brags to me that he knows so much more than Catholic bishops about canon law because he got a superior education.


I got a thousand times better education through my mentorship and tutoring that I would have gotten from any seminary. Matter of fact, I was kicked out of seminary.


Ryan tries to backtrack, but he just admitted that he didn't finish seminary. As he's speaking, it dawns on him he's made a mistake.


I didn't get kicked out, but I got kicked out of one class, sir, only because I questioned the priest who was teaching it and what he was trying to shut down my throat. That wasn't true.


Skipping the six to eight years of seminary is not the only requirement of priesthood that Ryan disregarded.


Canon law, of course, says a priest has to be celibate, but one of his lawsuits mentioned him having a companion. So I asked about this, too. I have never hid the fact that I'm a gay priest. But see, when you're a priest, you're basically a sexual. Has no meaning what your tendencies lead towards, you're basically asexual, and I can tell you and I can look you straight in the eye, not once did I ever, ever.


Break my vow ever. Not while I was a priest, no, and when did you stop being. I haven't stopped. You never stopped being a priest. Did you retire? I retired. And does that allow you to. It gives me more freedom to do what I want. Yes.


He is saying things left and right that I'm not sure he realizes removes any shred of his credibility. If you have a few minutes to spare it, help us. If you'd fill out this short listner survey, it'll let us learn more about our audience, which helps us sell the ads that keep this podcast free. You can also share your opinions about the show so we know what you think is working and what we could do better. Please go to WWT smokescreen fans to fill out the survey.




This is the story of the crisis that unfolded over the 18 months following the terrorist attacks on the 11th of September 2001.


The situation we learned about the crisis that led to war in Iraq. This will not be a campaign of half measures. We will accept no outcome but victory from something else. This is the fault line. Bush, Blair and Iraq available wherever you get your podcasts.


I grew up in the Midwest. I, too, wanted to give Ryan the benefit of the doubt, I assure you I would have been just fine making a podcast that uncovered a massive Catholic conspiracy against a whistle blowing priest. I came into this just wanting to know what was real. And now for me that was done. But his victims still had pain. I wanted to make sure he knew what is unbelievable is that when I ask Ryan about the people he swindled and defrauded, he pretends there are no victims.


He doesn't think he did anything wrong. He's saying people like fight are people like Sheila Anderson aren't really mad. They're just saying that because the Catholic Church told them to. So you feel that all these people are not actually angry. You think that that is all the bishops calling these people? Yes and yes. Does that seem elaborate? And oh, that seems I mean, it seems like a it seems very far fetched. What do you mean? Because what would they do?


What what motivation? They have to stop the abbey, not the bishops. What motivation with the people that were part of your review? I have no idea. I can't answer for them. I'm sorry they feel that way. So you don't feel anything? Almost. No, I don't. I think everybody. That participated in the AP did it with honorable intentions. Now, if somebody got hurt, I'm sorry, we all get hurt. That's our humanness.


But I don't blame any of them. He doesn't blame any of them. What a thing to say to talk about humanness and be so cruel, but strangely, when he talked about one of his victims, Sheila Anderson, who won a civil case against him, he only had nice things to say.


She was the most warm and loving and humble person. And I will say that straight to her face.


Today, I brought up the bankruptcies that helped him avoid repaying Sheila Ryan tries to claim the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He never really owed her money. The only reason that was done was because we had an attorney that insisted we do it. Ryan also talked about John Brown and his daughter, Maria, the pair of investigators who done so much to help Ryan. But we're now being sued by him. Ryan claims John misled him while helping him win the settlement.


This lawsuit has been going on for years. I'm hurt. I trusted John, we trusted John. And I think that is no different than the rate. Because the betrayal and the violation Ryan just compared, John, the guy who dropped more than 30 grand in a day to help him, he just compared that guy to his abusers. He seems genuinely hurt by what the Browns did, but he's not going to admit fault ever.


I forgive John Brown. I have to. It doesn't mean I have to forget because I want I'm human.


I talked with John Amaria after the interview. I couldn't see them, but you could feel the eye roll.


Ryan is who he is, he's a thief, a crook, liar. He takes advantage of people. They are still fighting Ryan in court. I also asked Ryan about by the bar Vita Bar.


What a where you want to talk about a whack job. She was a wacko. Weida assumed Ryan might say these kinds of things. It would be what I would expect from a con artist. I mean, I wouldn't it be utterly insane of him as a con artist to say, oh, yes, it's all true, but I'm still going to go around and say I'm the priest. So it would be the type of treatment I would expect.


What Ryan didn't realize is he gave me the very thing Vitter was after proof he's a fake.


There's now a recording of him saying that he did not get trained, that he does not follow canon law in the whole world can hear it. He's not an ordained Catholic priest, but he is still a free man.


Authorities are just allowing Ryan to continue to victimize victimized, victimized people. And all along he pretends to be the victim. One of the things that caught my attention early on about Ryan is his ability to just vanish, his disappearing acts have frustrated John Brown to every time you go someplace, sooner or later, the law catches up with them and he has to move his monastery from one town to the next.


And he's like a nomad. In the crimes, just keep following them when the law catches up to him, Ryan never ends up convicted of anything related to the church since he usually opens his Abbi's in small towns, the police departments and counties don't have a ton of resources they'll give up when he goes out of their jurisdiction.


While he's not in our area anymore and we don't have funds to extradite them, we don't care. You know, let let us know when he moves back in. So that begs the question, will Ryan ever be held to account for his crimes, for stealing money from people under the guise of being a priest? Will he even be charged? Because as of this recording, Ryan is innocent in the eyes of the law. He's done his time and finished probation.


John Brown thinks there are some obvious, albeit smaller, offenses. He showed me evidence Ryan violated probation multiple times. Remember, he got five years probation after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm in 2015. Ryan's probation doesn't allow him to contact his former church followers or present himself as a priest without first getting permission. But Ryan's lawsuit against John mentions a former nun, Patricia Baldrige. She tried to give him money in 2016. Any contact with her would be a violation.


But at the end of the day, what John hopes is that a prosecutor or investigator somewhere will come sit down and take a look at all the financial records he's collected.


There were just so many things, so many, many things. During my investigation that surfaced, he thinks money could be hidden, he's found receipts for missing gold coins that belonged to Sheila Anderson.


He takes the gold seventeen thousand dollars in gold on July 12th, 2011. And I have a post office receipts.


Any sense that he sends those gold e mails to see I Inc?


The business John just named is a gold and silver dealer in Arizona. His point and my point in bringing these up is that John thinks Ryan could still have money out there and even could still be collecting it from victims. That would mean the Abbe's doors are shut, but the con continues. I look at his social media pages. Ryan's online following has grown from a few hundred to nearly 3000 since the start of the pandemic. Multiple religious groups have accused Ryan of using their donor and mailing lists to raise money for himself.


When I read Sheila Anderson's case, there were a bunch of people who'd been mailing him money from all over. Could that still be happening? And is there is the abbey still in existence? Do you still operate it?




There last go round basically was their last hurrah.


But the Holy Rosary Abbey is still considered an active non-profit by the state of Illinois. I also see people living in other countries commenting on his posts, people who refer to him as a priest. But to truly prove Ryan is committing fraud, a government agency, we need to look into his finances to see if people are still donating and dig deeper than public records. But what's the likelihood that actually happens? I'm not real optimistic. After talking to Professor Richard Caplan, he teaches elder law at the University of Illinois.


I asked him about Ryan.


He probably is a little more unusual in the sense of having a very specific niche in terms of the religious order and floats around a relatively limited geographic area.


Professor Kaplan focuses on financial exploitation of the elderly. He said someone like Ryan isn't actually that unique. Elder abuse is a huge problem that mostly goes unprosecuted.


It's been estimated that less than 10 percent of all frauds are even reported to the authorities. And most of those reports are not investigated.


The biggest reason Professor Caplan thinks older people won't tell anyone they've been scammed is because they don't want to lose even more power over their lives.


And the biggest fear that keeps them from reporting financial exploitation is that someone, family or whatever, will use this as evidence or as a springboard to have them be institutionalized or at least have someone take over their finances.


Professor Caplan said fraud cases like the ones Father Ryan has been accused of can be hard to prosecute.


They can easily become, he said, she said, but those older people who tend to be victimized are oftentimes suffering from certain cognitive deficits. All of which means that not only does this make them particularly vulnerable, it also means that they may not be the most compelling witness if you brought them into court.


So when it comes to catching these guys, anybody from Ryan Scott to any of the other types of scammers out there, what can be done to catch them?


It has been generally thought that education to let people know about this, this is a good idea. Education, all we can do is warn people. Professor Caplan is saying once the money's gone, there's no realistic chance of getting it back.


The overwhelming circumstance is that the money can't be found or can't be accessed.


So the difference is sometimes that the person has bank accounts, they often use several different names. So the fact that you're giving the money to Ryan doesn't mean that Ryan puts it in Ryan's account. He puts in somebody else's account, but it's his account.


And then the account may be in offshore accounts so that even if it's in his name, it's going to be very difficult to access or try to get any recovery.


He is pretty much saying there's nothing you can do but keep an eye out.


I think the single biggest takeaway is for relatives to be alert so that they can prevent it.


All of the other suggestions about what to do after it happens are not even second best, not even second best.


Professor Caplan seems to believe it's most likely that Ryan and people like him are probably going to get away.


Apparently, this has worked out for him because despite various attempts by authorities to go after him, he has not changed his modus operandi.


He continues to portray himself as a religious figure.


Professor Caplan is right, Brian is still playing the part of a priest, he's created at least two Facebook pages and some fundraisers over the past year. His profile says he is a retired Catholic priest. I thought back on how Ryan ended the interview. He's always claimed he suffered from PTSD and health conditions because of the stress caused by the church.


I'm saddened how I never thought that. My dream. Would come to the closing, the way it came to a closing, but at the same time. I do it again. If I did not have the health conditions that I have now, thanks to them, I'd be out there doing it again.


One of his new Facebook pages includes a picture of a chapel he claims he set up in his basement. Those who have followed him closely for years don't think Ryan's actually finished. I asked Weida, the person who'd spent nearly 20 years following Ryan, if now, after he admitted things on the record, she could move on. Does this project, do you think, bring you any closer? If what he has said is true. That he is done, you know.


But he has not done that is the problem. It does not bring me any closure. He chose to appear to you in cleric's. With a giant crucifix. So he's not done pretending to be a priest. Therefore, if somebody walks up to him and says, Oh, Father, would you say mass for my mother and gives him a hundred dollars or something, he's going to take it. So you're not done?


I can't be done. He's not done. Provida Ryan had become a big part of her life. He'd become part of mine, too. But while reporting on this story, I discover he'd actually already been in my orbit for years. I couldn't believe it when I first saw it.


I was looking through bankruptcy filings connected to one of Ryan's cases, and I saw a familiar name, the name of a flooring company owned by a family friend, a guy named Dean Sternbergh. I gave him a call.


We sold them some marble tile. And they never paid, never paid, never paid. And we wound up taking them to court over the deal, which if it was real uncomfortable having to take a priest to court at first, Dean's not sure I've got the right guy.


You think it's the same guy? Oh, yeah. It's definitely the same guy. If I wasn't confident enough already, Dean's description only confirmed this was, in fact, Ryan Scott.


I remember being in court with him. And you know how the judge will ask you your name and he would say, father, sometimes not that I remember at all. He would tell the judge just got upset with him. He said, you either tell me your full name or your you're going to be in contempt of court and just go up until this call.


Dean thought he'd taken a priest to court.


When you grew up all your life, you were taught that priests were above everything, you know, and then to find this out was it and now to find out that he wasn't even a priest. So that's kind of interesting.


Now, you don't have to feel bad about taking a priest to court because. Well, not so much anymore. No.


Dean had even visited Pocahontas to talk about getting paid. This meant my connection with Ryan was much closer than I ever thought. I remember thinking when this started, how have I not heard about this guy? He had a church near my hometown, but now I'm learning he was one or two degrees from being inside my home. You see, Dean's mother in law was my babysitter.


Her name was Judy, and her connection to my family is deep. She helped raise not just me, but all of my siblings. Judy was the type of woman who would rollerblade with me in her 60s. She was a retired teacher. Judy helped teach me to write irresponsible, but also just had to go with things and have fun. She is the adult I knew best as a kid besides my parents because I was like, wow, I mean, that's such a close connection.


Yes, I just thought that was incredible. This call with Dean brought me back to why I wanted to tell this story. Here was someone I knew who Ryan successfully tricked. It pissed me off how Ryan seemed to use the Midwest against itself, the kindness of family and friends, my family and friends, Judy, the woman who helped raise me, she could have been a target as an older Catholic woman.


I'm doing this to hopefully protect people like her. To me, Father Ryan's story is about our blind spots, how we trust certain institutions and people in power. Ryan found a way to commit fraud, get caught and still face almost no consequences. Ryan essentially took a bet, a bet on all of us that we won't punish a man dressed like a priest, that this kind of authority is so revered. People wouldn't dare think a priest is a criminal or point out when something's not making sense.


I remember when I was hired to be an investigative reporter in Iowa, people said I was too nice. There's nothing to investigate. My first week, the diocese released a list of clergy accused of sexual abuse and not a single person on the list could be held accountable.


All of the men named were dead or no longer serving at a church.


Investigating Ryan has only reinforced why it's important to question real authorities as much as the fake ones. What kind of leeway do actual religious institutions get? Some prosecutors didn't even think some of the accusations against Ryan had enough jury appeal to go to court. But we are the jury just us agreeing that something criminal could have happened. Here is a step towards justice. In order to stop these cons, we have to call them out. Ryan Scott is going to go about living his life.


He sent me an email on September 19th, 20 20. Ryan wrote to tell me he shredded everything and sent it to the dump. I have no idea what he'd be shredding, but I noticed he'd included a Latin phrase that meant it is completed.


He's trying to end this. Finally, he seems to want out of the spotlight. But since the podcast has come out, he wrote in another message, Alex, you obviously have items that I no longer possess. This project for me is no longer about me. It's about the thousands of silenced victims after hearing what we found. It's not surprising he'd want to change the subject. It's what he wants us to do. We can't let him. From now on her media, I'm Alex Schulman and this has been smoke screen fake priest.


Thank you so much for listening. 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 Nyanya media. It is reported and hosted by me. Alex Shuman, the executive producer is Jonathan Hirsche. Lead producer is Natalie Rinn, associate producer is Kate Myshkin. Catherine St. Louis is our editor, fact checking by Laura Bullard.


Thanks to Matt McGinley for our theme music and blue dot sessions for tracks you hear on this episode Sound Design and Additional Composition by Jesse Bernstein. And the song you're hearing now is Old Time Religion by Parker Milsap.


Our engineer is Scott Somerville, special thanks to Peter Manseau and Vikram Patel. Give me that old time religion, give me that old time religion. Give me that whole time religion. It's good enough, it's good enough, it's good enough. For me.