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Police Arrest Man Accused of Being Bogus Priest At Jet Crash

November 2, 1988

TRENTON, Ontario (AP) _ Police arrested a man Tuesday who is accused of defrauding Northwest Airlines by posing as a Roman Catholic priest and counseling survivors of a jetliner crash near Detroit last year.

John Irish, 47, faces charges in Wayne County, Mich., of obtaining money under false pretenses in an amount exceeding $100, said Special Constable Brad Clairmont of the Trenton Police Department.

An FBI warrant for Irish’s arrest also accuses him of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, said Nancy Mouradian, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department.

Irish allegedly defrauded Northwest Airlines of about $1,100 in hotel and food charges while he posed as ″Father John Irish″ and counseled relatives of some of those killed in the Aug. 16, 1987 crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Police arrested Irish at Copperfield’s Hotel in this eastern Ontario city, where he had been working for several months as manager, Mouradian said.

A detention hearing was scheduled for Wednesday in Belleville District Court, Clairmont said. If extradited to Michigan and convicted of the felony fraud charge, Irish could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined $10,000, Mouradian said.

Clairmont said police in Trenton, a city of about 15,000, had Irish under surveillance since July. He would not discuss further details of the investigation.

Wayne County Sheriff Robert Ficano said several months ago that Michigan authorities believed Irish might be hiding in Canada.

Witnesses and law enforcement officials said the man at the Northwest Airlines crash site distributed business cards for Ronald Brimmell, an attorney in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

A man matching Irish’s description turned up at the site of another fatal plane crash in November 1987 in Denver. Police there said the man talked to survivors of the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1713 at Stapleton International airport, in which 27 of 82 people aboard were killed.

Denver police said the man posed as a reporter and private investigator who said he was seeking clients for an unidentified lawyer. Wayne County investigators traveled to Denver, searched a condominium owned by Irish and found evidence linking him to the Flight 255 crash, Ficano said.

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