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Priest, Former Parish Manager Indicted in Alleged Theft of $700,000 in Church Funds

The Rev. Edward Belczak and former St. Thomas More parish manager Janice Verschuren could spend up to 20 years in prison in connection with the theft of nearly $700,000 in church funds.

The Rev. Edward Belczak, who served as priest at St. Thomas More Parish for more than 30 years, was indicted in the theft of nearly $700,000 in church funds. (Patch file photo)
The Rev. Edward Belczak, who served as priest at St. Thomas More Parish for more than 30 years, was indicted in the theft of nearly $700,000 in church funds. (Patch file photo)

The Rev. Edward Belczak, whose parishioners pleaded last summer to the Archdiocese of Detroit and return the beloved priest to Troy’s St. Thomas More parish, won’t be returning the pulpit, but could instead be headed to prison for up to 20 years.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade’s office announced this week that Belczak, 69, and former parish manager, Janice Verschuren, 67, of Bloomfield Hills have been charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy in the alleged theft of nearly $700,000 in church assets, The Detroit Free Press reports.

The thefts reportedly occurred from 2004 to 2012. Belczak had served the parish for nearly 30 years.

Authorities have also begun the process of seizing a swanky $500,000 Florida condominium after Belczak used stolen money to make a down payment on the property, the newspaper said in an earlier account.  The property previously belonged to Vershuren and her former husband, according to the indictment (attached) handed down by a federal grand jury.

Belczak remains a priest, but was removed from his position by the archdiocese in January 2013 after an internal investigation by the Archdiocese of Detroit revealed "questionable financial transactions and practices."

In addition to the questionable down payment on the Florida condo, Belczak is accused to depositing two checks totaling more than $420,000 left to the church by a deceased parish member into two money-market accounts kept secret from the Archdiocese and spent the money on himself.

The Troy parish has 2,500 families and is one of the area’s largest.

The Detroit News has learned that although Belczak isn’t celebrating Mass in Troy or on a weekly basis anywhere, he has filled in at St. Kenneth Parish in Plymouth and at other parishes over the past 15 months. The exception was  granted due to a shortage of priests, the Archdiocese said.

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Stephanie April 24, 2014 at 09:17 AM
Sick, sick, sick. The worst thing is this crook still has supporters and a job. If this were a guy in corporate America you would be asking for life in prison. But a priest is above all. Sick- it's time that you that allow this sickness to do what is right and stop accepting this and worse behavior. The people that support this loser and church are the reason that this stuff keeps happening. This is one area the people have the power to change. If there is a shortage- so be it, less sexual predators and losers in power.
BabzStanwyck April 24, 2014 at 09:51 AM
And the Archdiocese chooses to keep parish corporations (are people too) like this open and close the smaller, humbler parishes whose priests actually serve their parishioners' true spiritual needs. WWFD (What Would Francis Do)?
Sue Czarnecki April 24, 2014 at 11:26 AM
Another big black mark on the Catholic Church. I wonder how many more parishioners will accept & live with these crimes without leaving for another religion or just give up altogether?
DELandis April 24, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Ms Czarnecki, even you must live with the crime as it has already occurred, but I think the majority of Parishoners won't accept it especially if found guilty. I'm not defending the man, but he is entitled to his day in court. I also believe, even if convicted, most won't give up leave or give up their religion, as everyone should know, there are evil and corrupt people everywhere! So the best choice is to gather together the good amongst us and drive the wrongful ones away, not try to hide!
Luca Brazzi April 24, 2014 at 04:44 PM
Belczak got used to the good life at STM. Wined and dined by wealthy parishoners, travelved free first classs on trips and was treated like royalty. I can recall one time when he ranted and raved at the pulpit because some were taking his Polish Christmas hosts without leaving a donation. I thought that was strange. Now I know why he was keeping the money for himself. Never felt comfortable around him. A con artist!

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