For many businesses and organizations, discovering an employee has embezzled funds comes as a disappointment and shock. One church in Bonneauville, Pennsylvania, is facing this situation, after an accounts payable audit revealed that one of its former priests embezzled more than $380,000 from its coffers.
According to ABC News, Reverend Caesar Belchez has been arrested and charged with three counts of felony theft after the AP audit revealed the embezzlement. The investigation began when Belchez, who served as priest for the Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Church for five years, left the parish to work at another church. The priest that took his place noticed several instances of misappropriation within the organization's financial records and alerted the diocese, which then contacted the Pennsylvania State Police. Authorities discovered that during his time at the Bonneauville church, Belchez managed to steal approximately $349,749 from its accounts, states the news source.
Belchez embezzled nearly $123,000 by transferring the funds from the church's stock and equities accounts to his own personal bank accounts, reports The Evening Sun. He then made several checks out to himself from the organization, which totaled $23,283. The investigation revealed that Belchez also used the church's credit card to make $72,766 worth of unauthorized purchases.
The audit discovered that he took petty cash directly from the church as well as a food drawer that had been set up to help hungry individuals within the parish, notes the source. When Belchez first arrived at Saint Joseph the Worker, the organization had an annual operating deficit of $16,000. By the time the embezzlement was discovered, that amount had risen to $150,000 due to Belchez's illegal scheme. The Evening Sun states that Belchez had admitted to the theft and is awaiting trial.