A Catholic priest and a parish administrator have been indicted for stealing almost $700,000 from St. Thomas More Church in Troy during an eight-year period, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced Wednesday.
Charged are Edward Belczak, 69, of Troy, and Janice Verschuren, 67, of Bloomfield Hills.
The five-count indictment alleges that between 2004 and 2012, Belczak and Verschuren stole money and diverted funds from the church and the Archdiocese of Detroit, then concealed their criminal acts by creating or verifying false financial reports that were submitted to the archdiocese. Charges in the indictment include mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.
The indictment alleges that Belczak, helped by Verschuren, committed the following:
- Taking for their own use nearly $500,000 donated or bequeathed by parishioners to St. Thomas More Church
- Using almost $110,000 stolen from the church to pay closing costs on the sale of Verschuren’s condominium in Palm Beach, Florida, to Belczak,
- Diverting to their personal bank accounts more than $26,000 in commissions paid to St. Thomas More Travel Group, and
- Diverting to themselves more than $33,000 owed to St. Thomas More Church by Diocesan Publications.
To conceal the theft and diversion of money, Belczak approved false financial reports that were submitted to the archdiocese. The reports underreported the amount of the parish’s operating receipts.
Statement from Archdiocese of Detroit:
"In January 2013, the Detroit Archdiocese announced that it had turned over its internal audit findings from St. Thomas More Parish in Troy to civil authorities because of what appeared to be serious financial discrepancies involving the pastor and his lead office assistant. The federal criminal charges filed today would indicate the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit now believes there is a case to be prosecuted against Fr. Edward Belczak and Janice Verschuren. Both individuals have not served at the parish in over a year.
The archdiocese will continue to cooperate with authorities as this matter moves through the courts. As such, there is nothing more the archdiocese can or will say at this stage in the proceedings."