Former parish accountant charged with defrauding 2 churches of $250,000
A 47-year-old woman has been charged with defrauding two churches on Nova Scotia’s east coast of more than $250,000 over a 12-year period, according to the RCMP and police Financial Crimes Unit Halifax Regional.
The activity took place in the former parish of St. Anselm Roman Catholic Church in West Chezzetcook and continued in the newly established parish of Saint John of the Cross in East Chezzetcook, according to a March 21 letter. to parishioners.
The East Chezzetcook woman was charged with three counts of fraud over $5,000, three counts of possession of property obtained by crime, impersonation and falsification of books and documents, among other counts of ‘charge.
A police investigation determined that the fraud was committed by the accountant between July 2009 and January 2020.
The investigation continues
“The woman used her position as parish accountant to access funds from parish bank accounts for personal use and established recurring payments made to various establishments providing goods and services in Nova Scotia,” police say. in the press release.
Police first received a public complaint about financial irregularities at a parish in West Chezzetcook in July 2019.
In a letter sent to parishioners on Monday, Father Vincent Onyekelu, the current parish priest of Saint-Jean-de-la-Croix, said the employee was fired for cause in December 2020.
Police said the Archdiocese of Halifax/Yarmouth conducted an internal investigation and provided its findings to police in December 2020.
Police began investigating based on the results of the independent audit, which looked at the parish’s finances over a 14-year period.
“The alleged incidents involved numerous small transactions with an elaborate process to conceal each transaction,” Onyekelu wrote.
Saint-Anselme suddenly closed
Onyekelu said in his letter to parishioners that the decision to close St. Anselme in November 2018 was the result of “many factors,” including an $875,000 debt to the archdiocese and needed repairs ranging from $180,000 to 410. $000.
“The subsequent discovery of theft and fraud, even if quite significant, does not impact the decision to close the church. The church will remain closed,” he said.
In an emailed statement on Friday, Bishop Dunn said “he and his staff are providing pastoral support to the pastor, current staff and parish community as this sad news comes to light in the small, tight-knit communities along the
East Coast. He asks the faithful to pray for all those involved in this unfortunate situation.”
The St. Anselm Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization, said in a statement it was cooperating with the criminal investigation.
“Our company’s efforts have always been directed toward obtaining complete truth and transparency about the circumstances surrounding our church’s closure,” he said in an email.
The police continue to collect information and evidence. The accused will appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court on May 3.