For months, Erwin Mena donned vestments, called himself “Padre,” and convinced Southern California Catholics that he was a priest, police say.
He was good at it, too, reportedly. He attended seminary in El Salvador for a time years ago before dropping out, so he was able to convincingly officiate Masses, funerals, and even at least one wedding. He had a likeable personality and said all the right things.
“There were people who thought he was a great priest, that they really liked him, he looked like a priest, he walked like a priest, he could talk like a priest all the way to the very end,” LAPD Det. Gary Guevara said.
But Mena couldn’t fool what Guevara called the “professional Church ladies.” It was a feast day with particular Mass parts, and Mena just wasn’t getting it right, he said.
“It was a complicated Mass that some of the real professional church ladies have memorized, and literally the jig was all up,” Guevara said.
“He was screwing up and everybody was like, what’s going on here?”
Within hours, phone calls were being made, and the archdiocese was officially alerted of Mena’s suspicious activities. Soon after, the archdiocese reported him to the police.