Officers Search Frontenac Church

By Matthew Clark
Morning Sun
July 26, 2008


The misuse "tens of thousands of dollars" in church funds has been the centerpiece of a 10-month investigation by the Crawford County Sheriff's Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

On Thursday, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Sacred Heart Catholic Church as part of that investigation.

"The entire investigation is geared toward their business manager," said Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton. "Through our investigation we have seen tens of thousands of dollars misused."

He added that the investigation began after the Sheriff's Department received information regarding potential misuse of church funds and he said that "I took it from there."

Horton said that the church itself and the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, while not part of the investigation, has cooperated fully with law enforcement over the duration of the investigation.

"We have been receiving financial information and going though that information and that is how we got to the point where we went before a judge to get the warrant," Horton said.

"I want it very clear that this is a financial investigation and that is the sole focus of the investigation," Horton said.

However, Fred Solis with the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, reiterated the church and the organization will continue to cooperate.

"The investigation is not targeted at the church or the diocese and we are glad to cooperate and help in any way," Solis said. "Beyond that, it is not an investigation on Fr. (Robert) McElwee, the church or the diocese."

As of now, Horton said that there has not been any action taken against any individual involved with the investigation.

"I felt it was important to let people know and, even though there is no arrest yet, the people and parishioners need to know that there are some financial mismanagement and it is our intention to fully prosecute at least one person," Horton said.

Horton said that funds were possibly redirected for personal use.

"It is the criminal misuse of funds that were given to a charitable institution and those were diverted to personal use that had absolutely no connection to church activities," Horton said.

Pending the outcome of the investigation, which is still ongoing, Solis said that it will provide the Diocese some direction on accounting practices at other parishes.

"Certainly we are going to take a hard look at some of the processes that are not only at Sacred Heart but other churches in the diocese," Solis said. "We want to make sure that there is proper oversight. We will take things from this investigation and apply it to the best that we can."

Matthew Clark can be reached at or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140


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