News 2 Investigates: Delving Deeper into the Mystic
BATON ROUGE - There's new information tonight regarding the financial dealings of a Baton Rouge private foundation that is now under federal investigation.
We first told you about St. Joseph Helpers last week. It's a foundation that claims to provide financial assistance to those in need. Since our first report, the News 2 Investigative Unit has obtained additional financial documents. They show the charity appears to have under reported its income by more than $700,000. One of St. Joseph Helpers members has come under fire from the Catholic Church for claiming to get spiritual messages from God.
Cathy Gabel believes she has heavenly powers which let her predict the future. Using the Catholic Church as a backdrop, she made believers out of some followers who then wrote hundreds of thousands of dollars to support St. Joseph Helpers.
Cathy Gabel easily recalls a day nearly 30 years ago when she claims Baton Rouge Bishop James Sullivan spoke to her from his coffin.
"I was sitting in St. Joseph's Church... and all of a sudden Bishop Sullivan appeared to me... he's laying in the coffin and tells me go move my shoes because I don't like my little feet out of the coffin," Gabel said.
The undocumented conversation between the deceased Bishop and Cathy Gabel did not end there.
"I said am I seeing you? He said when I went to heaven I found there was a flower with my parish, and to prove to you you are a mystic and you're not out of your head I am going to be buried in St. Joseph's Church. Back then Bishop Sullivan was not buried in St. Joseph's Church, but he's buried there now," Gabel said.
"I believed she was a wonderful mystic for the Catholic Church," Mary Rita Wish said.
Mary Rita Wish heard stories and futuristic predictions from Cathy Gabel and soon she says she was caught in Cathy Gabel's cult-like web, eventually writing hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks to support St. Joseph Helpers. With the help of her daughter, she escaped what they call a cult-like atmosphere.
"I knew this lady was a scam artist and she was exploiting her," Kathy Petkovic said. "My mom wouldn't believe me-- they brainwashed her."
Cathy Gabel's followers heard claims of predictions like the space shuttle accident, Hurricane Katrina and the downfall of Jimmy Swaggart.
Oddly, Cathy Gabel and her husband John recorded those so-called messages from God at the East Baton Rouge Parish District Courthouse. It's part of a batch of convoluted documents, filed by people who run a tight-knit charity and who want to remain private.
"And quite frankly mystics after they are allowed out in public their normal life expectancy is a little less than seven years," John Gabel, Cathy Gabel's husband said. "Nobody in their right mind wants to be classified as a mystic, because quite frankly, it's normally a death sentence."
The Catholic Church won't comment publicly about the Gabels, although it has in the past issued statements disavowing Cathy Gabel's claims and visions from God. When asked what Gabel thought about the Catholic Church cautioning parishioners about her, Gabel said that she wasn't worried about that.
What the Gables may have to worry about is a federal investigation into how much money St. Joseph's Helpers has reported to the IRS. The News 2 Investigative Unit has documents that indicate the organization received $937,000 in check donations during an eight year period from 2004-2011. However, on IRS forms, only $222,000 was reported during that time frame. We asked John Gabel if he has a history of under reporting contributions. He said, "Of course not."
Simple math shows that St. Joseph Helpers appears to have under reported its income more than $700,000. Public records show its treasurer John Gabel signed IRS returns stating that under penalties of perjury, the returns are true, correct, and complete.