TO THE BIG HOUSE, BUT NOT ON WARD AVE.

Dollar

Rev. Joseph W. Hughes was sentenced to five years in state prison yesterday for stealing $2 million from the Holy Cross Church in Rumson and living a swell life with the dough.

The heavy sentence, handed down by Superior Court Judge Bette E. Uhrmacher, was a clear rejection of Hughes’ claims, in pleading for leniency, that he is by nature excessively charitable and gave away much of the pilfered cash. But prosecutors contended there wasn’t a shred of evidence that any of the money was deployed for charity. Instead, they maintained, it went to luxury travel for Hughes and paid for a home, a Porsche and a BMW for a parish employee Hughes favored.

Hughes agreed to repay the parish $120,000. But the 63-year-old cleric and doesn’t have "two nickels to rub together," his lawyer told the judge, and Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin acknowledged that the sum probably won’t be returned, according to the Star-Ledger.

Hughes is now in the Monmouth County Jail but will probably do his time in a minimum-security prison.