Sunday, September 13, 2015

Priest pleads guilty to fraud in $573K church theft

Catholic priest Edward Belczak pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud in connection with stealing $573,000 from St. Thomas More church in Troy, the prosperous parish he led as pastor for nearly 30 years.

Belczak agreed to forfeit a plush Florida condo he bought with parish money and pay $573,000 in restitution. His sentencing will be Dec. 1; the sentencing guidelines call for him spending 33 to 41 months in prison.

Belczak wore his priestly collar during the hearing before U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow. He pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, admitting that church financial records he mailed to the Archdiocese of Detroit illegally concealed monies intended for the parish.
Belczak's plea came more than 2 1/2 years after Archdiocese of Detroit officials removed him as pastor of St. Thomas More when an audit raised evidence of financial irregularities involving several hundred thousand dollars.

“I always thought the money was for me,” Belczak said of $420,000 bequeathed to the parish in 2006 by a widow’s trust after Belczak officiated at her funeral.

“I was too trusting. I was too naïve,” Belczak said, initially contending the bequest was for him, not the needs of St. Thomas More.

Priest pleads guilty to fraud in $573K church theft

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