© Courier Communications 2011
First of two parts. For part two, click here.
INDEPENDENCE --- Newspapers across the Midwest, including The Courier, published articles in recent weeks about the Buchanan Abbey and its leader, the Most Rev. and Lord Abbot Ryan St. Anne Scott.
He and his new organization, officially known as the Congregatio Ordnis Sancti Benedicti, took over the former Buchanan County home in April. He later moved his llama herd to the property. Scott agreed to pay Buchanan County $125,000 for the property.
But evidence shows Scott is not what he claims to be, neither an ordained Roman Catholic priest nor a Benedictine monk.
Scott is, according to those aware of his long history, a con man pursuing a familiar course that winds through several states. Scott, a convicted felon, has made multiple false claims related to his alleged religious training and job history.
Only the llamas in his care are real.
"Why no one does anything about this guy is dumbfounding, really," said Scott's estranged son, Jonathon Brady of Florence, Ala.
Brady, given up for adoption at age 5, admits being bitter. But he said his real concern is for others who cross Scott's path.
Scott over the years has written rebuttals of many of the claims leveled against him. He asserts the Roman Catholic Church is persecuting him because of his refusal to acknowledge reforms implemented under Vatican II in the 1960s.
A native of Wisconsin, Scott's real name is Randell Dean Stocks, and Roman Catholic officials firmly assert his religious identity developed over many years is bogus.
He has used a number of aliases and at least five Social Security numbers, one assigned to a California woman who died in 1985, according to a report generated by the Vernon County Sheriff's Office in Wisconsin.
Several Roman Catholic dioceses, most recently the Archdiocese of Dubuque in September, have warned congregants Scott has no affiliation with the church.
In July, a judge in Knox County, Ill., entered a summary judgment in a civil lawsuit against Scott and his Holy Rosary Abbey near Galesburg for $161,051, in part because he failed to attend the hearing. The court threatens to hold Scott in contempt if he fails to appear in person Dec. 28 with $20,000 in cash.
According to court documents, the case involves a suit filed in February by Sheila Anderson, also known as Sister Mary Stephen of Saybrook, Ill. She claims Scott failed to repay money she loaned him to cover bills and to pay for a new roof at Scott's previous venture, Holy Rosary Abbey.
Anderson also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging Scott's income comes from "elderly women and other persons he convinces to contribute to his 'religious communities.'" She claims she gave Scott about $500,000 over six years.
Court documents describe Scott as Anderson's "religious superior, spiritual advisor, power of attorney agent and investment manager."
Scott has made no payments on the judgment, and the court seized Holy Rosary Abbey.
In court documents, Scott promises to repay the loans after selling the abbey. He promised the same revenue, however, to Buchanan County supervisors, and he bought the Illinois property for just $75,000.
Scott, in a statement emailed to the Courier, denies any attempt "to subvert or disobey the court in any way."
"It is my 'understanding' that Sheila M. Anderson has legal possession of the abbey real estate property in Galesburg, Ill.," Scott wrote. "That property value more than compensates the amount of the judgment against the abbey; therefore the judgment was believed to be satisfied."
History of conflict
Scott's history of alleged deception began in the late 1990s. The Diocese of La Crosse warned parishioners about Scott and his so-called Holy Rosary Abbey near Eastman, Wis. Other dioceses also issued warnings as Scott moved around the country, including Sioux City in Iowa, Peoria in Illinois, Bismarck in North Dakota and Gallup in New Mexico.
The Rev. Michael Gorman, chancellor of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., says he has seen Scott play this role before.
"He has had this abbey in various places. He never stays in one place very long," Gorman said.
"... He came (to Wisconsin) from California, where he was thrown out of a so-called Benedictine order. But they were just as phony as he is," Gorman added.
"The reason we have a problem with him is he's just not a legitimate priest. Period."
Despite claims to the contrary over the years, Scott has never been ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, according to church officials. Scott was baptized as a Protestant, and was previously married, fathered a child and then divorced, points Scott has acknowledged multiple times on his own websites.
He has had problems with communities other than the Roman Catholic Church as well. In 1995, the Council of Bishops of the Reformed Catholic Church of America excommunicated Scott. Church officials alleged Scott failed to operate a religious facility "in a proper manner, causing problems in the local community by allowing drugs, alcohol and other misuse."
Over the years Scott has vigorously denied many of the claims leveled against him. In a letter in September to Archbishop Jerome Hanus in Dubuque, Scott accused the archdiocese of distributing "premeditated lies, half-truths and innuendoes about Buchanan Abbey."
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"We do not need your permission to practice our faith as defined, codified and sanctified by 1,950 plus years of holy popes, saints, fathers, doctors, martyrs and councils of the church," Scott wrote.
Scott declined numerous requests by The Courier for a face-to-face interview.
Through emails received from an address connected to his website, Monastic Fleece, and some signed by "Bro. Porter," Scott suggested his attorney might be willing to discuss some issues, then withdrew the offer.
Another email offered this explanation for not talking with The Courier:
"As a Benedictine monastery, our first responsibility is to the spiritual life of the monks and as you may be aware, this is the Advent season, which is a holy, spiritual and penitential time for us," the message said.
" ... We thank you kindly for your interest and look forward to meeting you in the spring when weather and circumstances are more cooperative," the email added.
A subsequent message said Scott hasn't received favorable treatment from the media in the past.
"Our statements and facts have been distorted and taken out of context so that the truth is never told --- only one person's one-sided account," according to the email.
Before pretending to be a Roman Catholic priest and monk, Scott used a doctored resume to land a job with the city of Edgerton, Wis., beginning in October 1992. He was later promoted to comptroller and finance director.
But James Kapellen, a councilman at the time, grew suspicious of Scott and asked a private investigator, his sister-in-law at Sentinel Detective Agency, to review Scott's background.
"He had on his resume ... he had graduated from some college in California. We found out that he was never even registered there," Kapellen said.
Sentinel Detective Agency in June 1993 reported many discrepancies on Scott's resume, including false claims about past jobs and education. City officials subsequently allowed Scott to resign and paid a severance package as part of an agreement, according to published reports.
Later, law enforcement officials arrested Scott, and he ultimately was convicted of felony misconduct in public office in Wisconsin for cashing a $30 check for $300. He was sentenced to three years' probation. Scott has said a computer program printed the incorrect check. A police report, however, indicates the check was a "hand check," meaning it was completed by hand using a typewriter.
Scott's version of his life story is littered with demonstrably false claims. He never enrolled at California State University in Fullerton, Chapman College in Orange, Calif., or St. Ambrose College in Davenport, according to the private investigator's report and the registrar's office at what is now St. Ambrose University. He also never held the lofty positions, or in several cases even worked for, some of the companies listed on two versions of his resume obtained by The Courier.
Before cutting off communication, Scott in an email to The Courier offered an explanation about his education history.
"I could not afford classes in the traditional enrollment. I simply 'monitored' as many classes as I could wherever I could," he wrote.
Scott's resume from Wisconsin, however, lists specific degrees he claims he earned, minor areas of study and grade point averages.
Other of Scott's past claims are more serious in nature.
On more than one occasion Scott has alleged he was gang raped by priests in the fall of 1976 in Milwaukee and that church officials sent him to Tucson, Ariz., for treatment in October 1976.
He later claimed church officials in Tucson against his wishes gave him a new name, Social Security card and driver's license.
"At the time I was under a 'pontifical vow of silence' and was not able to talk about my abuse or what happened," Scott wrote in an email to The Courier. "I will not discuss my abuse and violation."
Church officials in Wisconsin have said they investigated Scott's claim and found no merit in his allegation.
James Isaacson of Galesburg also had a deal with Scott. He planned to sell a house and lot adjacent to the Holy Rosary Abbey to Scott on contract.
Scott made monthly payments of about $280 from January 2010 until July 2011, according to Isaacson.
"He was gone the last of June of this year, and I had no inkling of any problems," Isaacson said. "He made the July payment and then walked away. And I haven't heard from him since."
Isaacson ultimately learned Scott had gone to Iowa, but he did not know where Scott's group landed until contacted by The Courier.
"He left me with $2,500 in taxes that he was supposed to take care of," Isaacson said. " ... (The property) was supposed to be under his name and taxes paid by him or the abbey or whatever."
But Isaacson said the abbey and its residents were amiable neighbors.
"In fact, they were real good people, or at least they were congenial," he said.
Isaacson now describes what he went through as "a bit of a hassle" and Scott as "slippery."
"I would say that would be a good word."