No Evidence Found Implicating Port Barre Priest
October 10, 2006
Lafayette — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette's internal investigation of embezzlement at a Port Barre church found no evidence implicating the priest whom police booked Friday, according to a statement from the diocese.
Father Charles Nicholas Trahan, 58, faces theft charges in connection with more than $60,000 in missing funds at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church.
He was named as a suspect days after longtime church secretary Ramona Speyer, 50, was booked on theft charges in the investigation, which began when attorneys for the diocese alerted police to the alleged embezzlement.
But church officials said their own investigation yielded no evidence against Trahan.
"The Diocese of Lafayette has been investigating for several weeks financial irregularities at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Port Barre, but found nothing that implicated the pastor, Father Nicholas Trahan," Diocese of Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell said in a written statement.
"The diocese is not aware of any additional evidence that led to his arrest. We are awaiting the results of the civil authorities' investigation."
Port Barre Police Chief David Richard has said that Trahan was charged after Speyer, under questioning by detectives, alleged the priest was also involved in the scheme.
Richard did not return two telephone calls to his office Monday for information on whether investigators turned up additional evidence to corroborate the secretary's statements.
Trahan, who has denied wrongdoing, has been released on $25,000 bond.
The diocese has placed him on administrative leave pending the resolution of the criminal case.
Monsignor Robert Romero, regional vicar, will assume Trahan's duties.
"I know that these events will cause confusion and sadness for the people of the Sacred Heart parish," Jarrell said in the written statement responding to Trahan's arrest.
"Without knowing all the facts, however, I again ask everyone to withhold judgment as we pray for divine assistance and guidance for all involved."
The case comes to light less than a month after the former principal of Our Lady of Fatima School in Lafayette was sentenced to three years probation and 600 hours community service for embezzling more than $250,000 from the Catholic school.
Lloyd Guiberteau, 53, had served as principal at the Lafayette school for 10 years before stepping down in 2004.
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