April 3, 2013
The Hartford Courant, Edmund Mahony
The Bridgeport priest nicknamed Monsignor Meth by some of his old parishioners appears headed for at least a decade in prison after admitting in court Tuesday that he conspired to import and distribute the powerfully addictive stimulant methamphetamine.
Kevin Wallin, 61, seemed full of nervous energy as federal marshals led him, shackled, into federal court, where he pleaded guilty — although he told Senior U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello that he had taken nothing stronger than medication to control his blood pressure and cholesterol level.
He smiled broadly while scanning the largely empty courtroom. He has a wiry build and now has little hair other than a lush goatee. He perched on the edge of a chair, planted elbows on a table and seemed as if he were trying to anticipate even routine questions from Covello, like whether his education went beyond high school.
"Beyond college," Wallin volunteered. "I have seven years beyond college."
"My goodness," the judge replied, "you are blessed."
"Yes I am, your honor," Wallin said.
What Covello didn't ask — and neither Wallin nor his prosecutors volunteered — was how a priest who once was a confidant of retired Cardinal Edward Egan transformed into a participant in a bicoastal conspiracy to buy and sell methamphetamine.
Last year, as federal drug agents and state police detectives finished building their drug trafficking indictment against Wallin and four others, they uncovered evidence that he was trying to open an X-rated, adult entertainment store in North Haven.
Wallin applied to the town to open the business under the corporate name Rahab and Endor. The Bible says that Rahab was a prostitute whose life God spared when Joshua and the Israelites destroyed Jericho. The Witch of Endor, according to the Bible, foretold the death of King Saul.
The arrest warrant affidavit in Wallin's case speculates that he might have planned to use the adult business to launder drug profits. There is also information in the affidavit suggesting that Wallin had become addicted to methamphetamine before his arrest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick F. Caruso did not discuss the North Haven business, but said that authorities spent months on the investigation that led to Wallin's indictment and those of four co-defendants — two in California and two in Connecticut.
Among other things, Caruso said that an undercover police officer bought methamphetamine from Wallin — six times. Caruso said other evidence shows that Wallin was planning to take possession of a shipment of about 3 1/2 pounds of the drug when he was arrested.
He is accused of buying the drugs from a supplier in California and selling them in New York and Connecticut.
Wallin pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, a charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of up to life. Wallin's plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney's office lists a recommended sentencing range of about 11 to 14 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.
The others charged with Wallin have pleaded not guilty.
Wallin's arrest in January stunned the Diocese of Bridgeport, where he formerly served in positions that included personal secretary to successive bishops, including Egan, later appointed cardinal in New York.
Wallin's last position was that of monsignor of the church's principal parish in Bridgeport, St. Augustine's. He resigned and was granted a sabbatical in 2011 for what the diocese called "health and personal issues" amid signs of increasingly odd behavior.
He was living at the time of his arrest in an apartment in Waterbury.
He is accused of buying crystal meth from a man and woman in southern California, Chad McCluskey, 43, of San Clemente, and Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Niguel. Two other Connecticut men, Kenneth DeVries, 52, of Waterbury, and Michael Nelson, 40, of Manchester, also are charged in the conspiracy. Wallin is also charged with selling drugs to police undercover agents six times since September.