A 63-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Farmingdale was one of two men netted in a drug arrest during an unrelated sting at a Bethpage motel early Wednesday morning, Nassau County police said.
Rev. Robert Lubrano, who is a confirmed Roman Catholic priest but is currently unassigned, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance after police allegedly found crack cocaine in his motel room. The other suspect, 32-year-old Michael Oyola of the Bronx, was charged with criminal possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of marijuana. Lubrano will be arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead; Oyola was released on a desk appearance ticket.
Det. Lt. Richard Lebrun, the department’s chief spokesman, said at a press conference Wednesday that Bureau of Special Operations was conducting an unrelated undercover narcotics investigation at Bethpage Motel on Hempstead Turnpike when they saw Oyola and Lubrano exchange money in the parking lot just after midnight, police said. LeBrun did not specify why officers were staking out the motel.
Officers pulled Oyola over for a traffic stop and found a brown, hand-rolled cigar in his sweatshirt, which he allegedly attempted to conceal, LeBrun said. Police also discovered a bag of marijuana, he said. Oyola was subsequently arrested.
Police saw Lubrano enter a motel room and, after an investigation, placed him under arrest. Police said a “white/yellowish” substance believed to be crack cocaine and a silver-colored metal pipe with what appeared to be crack cocaine residue was recovered at the scene.
LeBrun declined to say if the Lubrano obtained the crack cocaine as part of the alleged transaction with Oyola.
Lubrano is the brother of Pat Ward, a SUNY Farmingdale professor who was the victim of a brutal murder-suicide in October 2014, in which Ward was beheaded by her son Derek. After killing his mom, Derek committed suicide by jumping in front of an eastbound LIRR train.
Both Nassau police and the Diocese of Rockville Centre confirmed that Lubrano was related to Ward.
According to an alleged statement given to police at the time of his arrest, Lubrano turned to drugs after his sister was violently killed.
“It is believed that he did state that he was using crack cocaine because of the fact that his sister was murdered,” LeBrun told reporters.
“Ms. Ward,” he added, “did meet a very violent end.”
Lubrano is currently unassigned to a parish. He has been on authorized leave for five years, which predates Ward’s death. Priests seek authorization to leave for a number of reasons, including medical purposes, to teach at a university or to serve as a military chaplain. Dolan did not say why Lubrano requested that the Bishop place him on authorized leave.
Dolan said he was not aware if the Diocese was privy to any information indicating that Lubrano using drugs. Even if the Diocese had any indication that Lubrano was a user, that information would be confidential, Dolan said.
Lubrano was ordained in 1985, and was eventually assigned to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Roosevelt, and Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Hempstead, Dolan said.
“The diocese will cooperate with law enforcement in anything they ask,” Dolan said.
Lubrano’s nephew had a history of mental illness, police said at the time. He had psychiatric disorders spanning a decade and had multiple run-ins with authorities. Police officials said Ward’s issues worsened after his grandfather Carl J. Lubrano died.
“He killed my sister because we couldn’t get the prescriptions he needed,” Lubrano told the New York Daily News after the tragic incident. “For four days, he didn’t have his meds.”
An obituary published in Newsday in August 2013 said Carl J. Lubrano had served in the US Marines during World War II. He also worked as a sacristan at St. Kilian RC Church in Farmingdale.