September 1, 2015

Priest Pleads Guilty to Stealing Money from His Former Parish

Edward Belczak, 70, the former priest of St. Thomas More Church in Troy, Michigan, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced.

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Paul Abbate, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division.

Belczak pleaded guilty to devising and executing a scheme to steal $572,775.82 from St. Thomas More Church over several years, and then creating yearly false financial reports that were mailed to the Archdiocese of Detroit that concealed his theft of the money for his own benefit.

Belczak admitted that in March 2005, he used $109,570.80 from St. Thomas More’s bank account to pay the down payment on a Florida condominium. According to court records, in April and May 2006, Belczak diverted two checks totaling $420,200 payable to St. Thomas More from the estate of a deceased parishioner. To conceal his illegal conduct, Belczak opened a business bank account in the name of “St. Thomas More c/o Edward Belczak” and deposited both checks into that account. From May 2008 through May 2012, a St. Thomas More parishioner donated money each year to the church, totaling $43,000, for the needs of the church. Each year, Belczak deposited the check made payable to St. Thomas More into the business bank account in the name of “St. Thomas More c/o Edward Belczak.”

Belczak entered into a plea agreement that calls for a sentence of between 33 and 41 months in custody. Belczak has agreed to pay restitution to St. Thomas More Church in the amount of $572,775.82. A sentencing hearing was set for December 1, 2015.

“Fraud cases typically involve people using lies to steal money, but in a case involving a member of the clergy, the fraud also includes a serious betrayal of trust,” McQuade said. “In this case, Father Belczak abused the sacred trust his parishioners placed in him so that he could enrich himself.”

This case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Troy Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frances Lee Carlson and Adriana Dydell.