Three men arrested last fall after they broke into a South Buffalo rectory, threatened a priest with a knife, tied him up and stole more than $550 pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree burglary and robbery.
Daniel Bernardi, 21; Duane Dalton, 25; and Michael Rodriguez, 32, all of Harvey Place, face up to 25 years in prison when they are sentenced May 5, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.
But Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio said she will sentence them to anywhere from 10 to 15 years behind bars.
The suspects were arrested shortly after the break-in, which happened around 9 p.m. Sept. 27 in the rectory of Our Lady of Charity Catholic Church, formerly St. Ambrose, on Ridgewood Road.
They threatened Monsignor David Lee with a knife and forced him to open the rectory safe before tying him up and fleeing with the weekly collection for the poor.
Prosecutors said they also took Lee’s wallet, containing credit cards and cash, a pocket watch and a medallion for Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Bernardi’s fingerprints were found on a window air-conditioning unit that was pushed in to gain entry, prosecutors said. Lee knew and identified Bernardi, who was arrested with Rodriguez on Altruria Street, within minutes of a 911 call on the break-in. Dalton was arrested a few hours later at his home.
Prosecutors said most of the money and stolen property were recovered.
Lee will submit a victim impact statement for the judge to consider at sentencing, according to Assistant District Attorney Mara L. McCabe, who prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Paul Parisi.