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.