A Catholic priest and a parish administrator have been indicted for stealing almost $700,000 from St. Thomas More Church in Troy, Michigan, during an eight-year period, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit division.
Charged were 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 St. Thomas More Church and the Archdiocese of Detroit for their unjust enrichment and 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, assisted by Verschuren, used the proceeds of their illegal conduct in a number of ways, including:
- Diverting to 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
- 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 of Detroit. The reports underreported the amount of the parish’s operating receipts.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.