Pastor Guilty of Stealing $250K

By Matt O'Brien
Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise [Worcester MA]
Downloaded February 26, 2004

WORCESTER -- The former pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fitchburg pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing $250,000 from the church.

The Rev. Donald Ouellette, 49, the former pastor of the Catholic parish on Walnut Street, pleaded guilty to 18 counts of larceny in Worcester County Superior Court.

Superior Court Judge Peter Agnes set a May 5 sentencing date for Ouellette.

Ouellette, who has not offered an explanation for the crimes, could potentially face up to five years in prison for each one of the 18 convictions, said the priest's lawyer, Michael McEvilly of Leominster.

Ouellette was accused of writing more than 207 checks to himself from a parish bank account while pastor at the Fitchburg church since 2001, prosecutors have said.

The priest's unscheduled change of plea in Worcester Superior Court happened two months after a convicted child rapist, William Lamontagne, told the Sentinel & Enterprise that Ouellette funneled some of the stolen money to him in prison.

Ouellette has denied through his lawyer that he and the prisoner were in a relationship.

"You listen and it's confusing," said Monsignor Thomas Sullivan, who visited Lamontagne in prison last year and talked to Ouellette about the allegations so he could help Bishop Daniel Reilly decide what to do about the priest.

"What the relationship was is just confusing," said Sullivan, who as chancellor of the Worcester Catholic Diocese acts as liaison to the district attorney's office. "One says one thing and one says the other."

Church officials said they have not decided yet what to do with Ouellette, who has been stripped of his priestly duties but canonically is still considered Immaculate Conception's pastor.

"This is still within the realm of the civil process," said diocesan spokesman Ray Delisle. "While all of this was going on, our focus has been on being able to care for the needs of the parish."

A large portion of the stolen money was to be used for a fund to build an elevator in the 75-year-old church building.

All of the stolen money has since been recovered in steady installments through insurance.

Now that Ouellette admits guilt, Lamontagne said he fears prosecutors will implicate him in the priest's larcenies.

Lamontagne, whose 14-year prison term recently ended, spoke Tuesday by telephone from the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, where he is housed with more than 500 other sex offenders as the state petitions to keep him civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person.

"I was taking money from (Ouellette) and receiving money without actually knowing where it was coming from," Lamontagne said. "I guess it was my fault for being naive and being lured into this relationship, or whatever."