Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Layers of Nonprofit Fraud At This Parish

by Gary Snyder


As if things couldn’t get worse at the St. Thomas More parish in Troy (MI). Troy police and the archdiocese are investigating whether Rev. Edward Belczak, the pastor at the church embezzled or mismanaged $429,000. According to the archdiocese, investigators are trying to figure out whether Belczak padded his salary, paid a ghost employee $240,000 over the last six years and mishandled collections for Mother's Day and Father's Day, among other allegations.

The removal of Belczak has shocked many in metro Detroit who knew him as a charismatic man who grew the parish into one of the biggest Catholic churches in Oakland County. He was pastor there for 30 years before his removal last week.

Now two other investigations are under way. The pastor bought a half-million-dollar condo in Florida from his longtime church administrator in Wellington, Fla., for $500,000. The amount paid was $50,000 more than the administrator initially paid and is currently worth $370,000. In addition to paying the mortgage, as the owner, Belczak would have to pay taxes that ranged from about $8,500 to $10,500 a year over the last six years, according to records with the Palm Beach County Constitutional Tax Collector. Last year, the tax bill for the condo was $8,460.73. Its highest rate since Belczak bought it was $10,525.46, in 2008. It is unclear how Belczak paid for the home or maintained it. In metro Detroit, priests earn about $27,500 to the mid-$30,000 range, depending on years of service.

According to an expert, "That raises all sorts of conflicts of interest and other problems. So it raises eyebrows."

The other embezzlement investigation focuses on a travel group, which organized church trips. Investigators are looking into whether Belczak may have accepted $25,000 in residual commission checks to the travel group that should have been deposited or recorded in parish accounts. (DetroitFree Press)



Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, Newsweek.com, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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