Parishioners ask leniency for embezzling Rev. Belczak

Detroit Free Press

Patricia Montemurri, Detroit Free Press November 27, 2015

The Rev. Edward Belczak drank “heavily” to cope with running a large Catholic parish and was “a compulsive gambler” in stocks when he embezzled $573,000 from Troy St. Thomas More church, his attorney wrote in asking for probation or home detention when the priest is sentenced Tuesday.

Some 50 parishioners, prominent business owners, friends and fellow priests wrote letters on Belczak’s behalf, asking U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow for leniency. They describe the 70-year-old priest as a compassionate, inspiring force. His humiliation — and how the Archdiocese of Detroit has banned him from performing public church services — is punishment enough, some suggest.

Belczak pleaded guilty Sept. 1 to one count of mail fraud in connection with the embezzlement and has paid restitution. The priest deserves a 37-month prison sentence rather than the “gentle wrist-slap of probation that defendant Belczak requests,” government prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

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