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FAYETTE, Mo. | Authorities in central Missouri this week filed criminal charges against a self-anointed religious figure disavowed by numerous Catholic dioceses across the United States.

During his time in Buchanan County, Iowa, Ryan St. Anne Scott Gevelinger, the man masquerading as a Benedictine monk, preferred people call him "the Most Rev. and Lord Abbott Ryan St. Anne Scott."

Mike Neal, sheriff of Howard County in Missouri, arrested Scott in Armstrong, Mo., on a warrant issued Tuesday. Scott was arraigned the next day.

"We went to his little abbey and took him into custody. We did not treat him any differently than any other person we arrest," Neal said.

Authorities charged Scott with one count of financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person for property valued at $50,000 or more, a Class A felony. He also is facing two counts of financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person for property valued at $1,000 to $49,999, a Class B felony.

The court set bond at $150,000, cash only. The judge also ordered Scott to have no contact with Patricia Baldridge, an elderly resident of rural Benton County, Iowa.

Baldridge and her late husband, Robert, at one time were ardent supporters of Scott. They took in one of Scott's followers in about February 2012. Roseanna Gevelinger, 84 at the time, needed a place to live after Buchanan County officials evicted Scott's group from its alleged abbey near Independence.

In 2010, Gevelinger legally adopted Scott in Knox County in Illinois. Scott at the time was about 60 years old, and his biological mother, Roberta Stocks, was living in Wisconsin.

Baldridge at some point joined Scott's group and started going by "Sister Monica," at least according to letters she allegedly wrote. Scott posted the messages on his website, and the letters include his strong indictments of his "persecutors" over the years.

Scott, Gevelinger and another follower, Barry Rodgers, also known as Brother Gregory Joseph, went to Missouri. The trio settled first near St. Louis before buying a former Methodist church in Armstrong.

Baldridge at some point joined them. Rodgers, Scott's companion for nearly 20 years, in July 2013 returned to Canada, however.

Scott moved a double-wide mobile home onto the property in the small community, according to Sheriff Neal. Baldridge, Gevelinger and Scott were living there, but Baldridge was apparently supporting the group financially.

"We're pretty sure she was funding all of this," Neal said.

Neal describes Armstrong as a small community with no police force. Complaints by and about Scott reached the sheriff's office not long after Scott's arrival, according to Neal.

"He and I kind of got cross-ways right from the start," Neal said.

In one situation, Scott claimed someone had "keyed" his car.

"We never could come up with anything. We kind of maybe thought he'd done it himself to get attention," Neal said.

Baldridge a few weeks ago asked to leave Scott's company and called the sheriff's office. Not knowing what to expect, Neal requested assistance from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Officers, though, were able to escort Baldridge away without incident, according to the sheriff.

Neal suggested a motive for Baldridge's decision to leave Scott: "He was trying to get her to sell her farm up in Iowa."

"We thought it was a swindle," Neal added.

Stephen Murrell, prosecuting attorney for Howard County in Missouri, filed a criminal complaint Tuesday. In it, Murrell alleges Scott, beginning in April 2014, "by deception, intimidation, undue influence or force" got control of Baldridge's property valued at more than $50,000.

Scott also allegedly "deceived, intimidated or influenced" Baldridge to contact a real estate agent. Scott's goal was for Baldridge to sell 157 acres in Benton County, Iowa, according to Murrell's criminal complaint.

Scott also was trying to get Baldridge to change the terms of her revocable trust. The goal was to have his Holy Rosary Abbey receive two-ninths share of the trust distribution.

Scott is in jail, and Baldridge was safely returned to her family in Iowa, according to Neal. Gevelinger remains in Armstrong but is in contact with Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

"She's here. She's fine. We're keeping track of her ... Family members have been called, and she's being taken care of," Neal said.

History

According to a previous Courier investigation, Scott in the past went by Ryan Patrick Scott and Ryan Patrick Scott Gevelinger but has used other aliases as well.

Catholic diocese officials in Dubuque and Sioux City, La Crosse, Wis., Peoria, Ill., Bismarck, N.D., Gallup, N.M., and most recently St. Louis, Mo., have all issued warnings to the faithful about Scott's activities in those areas. 

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1996 noted of Scott: "He is not now and never has been ordained as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, is not a Benedictine and has received no official recognition."

Wisconsin authorities in 1993 convicted Scott of misconduct in public office, a felony. Before pretending to be a priest, Scott was comptroller and finance director for Edgerton, Wis. In that capacity, he altered a $30 check and cashed it for $300.

The court sentenced Scott to probation for three years. He spent 23 days in jail during an investigation in October 1996 he violated terms of his release.

Starting in 2010, Scott began an attempt to establish an "abbey" in the former Buchanan County home near Independence. That operation followed a similar failed attempt in Galesburg, Ill., and a summary judgement for $161,000 awarded to Sheila Anderson.

Anderson was a former Scott supporter who wanted to serve as a nun.

Scott in 2011 filed for bankruptcy as the Holy Rosary Abbey in Illinois and as Ryan Patrick Scott in Iowa. The federal bankruptcy judge in Illinois declared Scott's corporation "a sham and the alter ego of debtor Ryan Patrick Scott."

Authorities in Knox County in Illinois charged him in March 2013 with three counts of financial exploitation of an elderly person; three counts of theft and one count of deceptive practices. The charges, each a felony, were later dismissed. Why is not clear.

Those charges stemmed from Scott's role as "spiritual adviser" to Sheila Anderson.

More recently, Scott filed for bankruptcy in Missouri as Ryan Patrich Scott Gevelinger. That case began in November 2013 and is pending, according to federal court documents.

Buchanan County Attorney Shawn Harden dealt with Scott and helped get his group evicted from the former county home.

"It saddens me to learn that there may yet be additional victims of 'Father Ryan,'" Harden said.

"With the media attention previously given to his history and the repeated warnings from Roman Catholic organizations in every area in which he takes up shop, I am astonished in his continued ability to recruit and deceive followers," Harden added. "The new allegations, if proven, are only a small piece of the financial ruin left behind in this man's wake."

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Regional Editor for the Courier

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