Sticky Fingered Priest Who Embezzled $573,000 From St. Thomas More Catholic Church In The Posh Detroit Suburbs Gets 27 Months In Federal Prison
Edward Belczak arrived at St. Thomas More Catholic Church as a wide-eyed idealist priest 30 years ago. The sticky-fingered priest found out today he will spending the next 27 months with hardened criminals in federal prison.
Belzak was sentenced to 27 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to embezzling $573,000 from the parishioners.
The sticky-fingered Priest pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud. Belzak agreed to a plea deal that reduced the charges from the original six counts related to embezzlement and fraud to one.
Belzak made a lengthy plea to the judge for mercy during his sentencing hearing. He cited scripture and also revealing that he had suicidal thoughts because of the public humiliation.
Patricia Montemurri of the Detroit Free Press reports that Belczak claims his crimes came during a period when he was struggling to cope with running a large parish, was drinking heavily and was a compulsive gambler in the stock market. He told the court, “I have stained the reputation of being a priest.”
The guilty plea for mail fraud came more than 2 1/2 years after the Archdiocese of Detroit removed him as pastor of St. Thomas More after an audit of church finances raised evidence of financial irregularities involving several hundred thousand dollars.
Trouble began in 2006 after a late parishioner bequeathed $420,000 to the parish in 2006 from her trust because Belzak officiated at her funeral.
The sticky fingered priest then opened a private account under the name of “St. Thomas More c/o Edward Belczak” to deposit the bequest money.
The sticky fingered priest defended his actions by claiming the money was for him. He told the court, “I always thought the money was for me,”
This defense didn’t sit well with Assistant U.S. Attorney Frances Carlson who scoffed at Belczak’s explanation by explaining to the judge that if Belczak hadn’t opened the private account, “you couldn’t have cashed the check…because it was made payable to the church?”
As part of his guilty plea for mail fraud, Belczak admitted that he withdrew $109,570 from the St. Thomas More bank account in 2005 to buy a $500,000 Florida condo, which he must now forfeit, from St. Thomas More’s parish manager Janice Verschuren. Vershuren was also charged with theft from the church in an unrelated matter. Her case is still pending.