Priest Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Money from His Former Parish
Edward Belczak, 70, the former priest of St. Thomas More Church in Troy, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for stealing $572,775 from his parish, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division and Chief Gary Mayer of the Troy Police Department.
During a hearing today before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow, Belczak was sentenced to 27 months in prison and a two year term of supervised release based on his plea of guilty to mail fraud for devising and executing a scheme to steal and divert $572,775.32 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 and diversion of the money for his own benefit.
At the time of his plea, 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 Wellington, 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. In order to conceal his illegal conduct, Belczak opened an unauthorized business bank account in the name of “St. Thomas More c/o Edward Belczak” and deposited both checks into that account. Belczak used most of the money bequeathed to St. Thomas More for his own personal use, benefit and enrichment. 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.”
In addition to the custodial sentence, the funds on deposit in Belczak’s Merrill Lynch and TD Ameritrade accounts and his Florida condominium were forfeited. Belczak also was ordered to pay restitution of $572,775.32 to St. Thomas More.
“Father Belczak’s crime was not an isolated incident or a momentary lapse of judgment, but an orchestrated scheme perpetrated over time to defraud the people he claimed to serve. It is a sad day when someone in a position of trust betrays that relationship, but it is important to ensure that no one is above the law,” McQuade said. “This sentence demonstrates that individuals will be held accountable when they steal significant sums of money that are entrusted to them.”
“The actions taken by Mr. Belczak represent a shocking betrayal of the faith and trust the public places in our clergy”, said Special Agent in Charge Gelios. “Secular or otherwise, the FBI is committed to the investigation of anyone who abuses their position for personal gain.”
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.