PRIEST INDICTED IN $700,000 PARISH THEFT
April 24, 2014
Photo of Rev. Edward Belczak from news broadcast by WXYZ-TV in Detroit. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(TROY, MI.) -- The suspended pastor and a one time parish manager of Troy St. Thomas More Catholic Church were indicted Wednesday for allegedly embezzling nearly $700,000 in parish money.
The Rev. Edward Belczak, 69, of Troy, and Janice Verschuren, 67, of Bloomfield Hills were named in a five-count indictment in U.S. District Court.
The indictment alleges mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy involving missing parish funds from 2004 to 2012.
Among the allegations:
~ Belczak used $109,570.80 diverted from a parish bank account to put a down payment on a Palm Beach, Fla., condominium he purchased in 2005 from Verschuren, according to documents filed Monday by the FBI to seize the property.
~ Belczak had approved and submitted false financial reports to the Archdiocese of Detroit in an effort to conceal the alleged thefts. Belczak was suspended in January 2013 as St. Thomas More's pastor.
~ In April 2006, a woman parishioner described as E.M., died and left $420,204.52 to be used "for the needs of the church," according to the indictment. Belczak received the parishioner's bequest in two checks, then deposited them into a business money-market account he opened but kept secret from the archdiocese. Then he spent the money on himself, according to the indictment.
~ Belczak, with help from Verschuren is accused of stealing nearly $500,000 donated or bequeathed by church members as well as more than $26,000 in commissions paid to the St. Thomas More Travel Group among other alleged thefts of money.
Belczak was suspended from his parish duties in January 2013 by the Archdiocese of Detroit after an internal audit suggested Belczak embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the parish he had led for nearly 30 years.
Belczak's attorney said his client is innocent of the charges.