$121,000 Stolen from Brookfield Church

By Heather Shannon
Today's TMJ
September 22, 2010

BROOKFIELD - Some $121,000 was taken from the checking account at St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield. It was taken as part of an elaborate online scheme.

Father Phillip Bogacki of St. John Vianney said he and parishioners are relying on prayer to get them through. "It hurts," Bogacki said. "We have a mission as the church and unfortunately we need funds to make that happen and it's the sacrifice of good people."

St. John Vianney is no stranger to scandal. Three years ago, Father Leonard Van Vlaenderen was arrested for cocaine possession and driving under the influence. Then $128,000 disappeared from the parish collection fund. Now the congregation of 8,300 is once again faced with a test of faith.

'It's very unfortunate," Father Bogacki said. "People make great sacrifices to the church, and the church itself has had its fair share of issues, so it's disappointing."

An investigation proved that no parish employees or parish members were involved in the theft.

"I think it's disappointing," St. John Vianney parish member Pamela Pyzyk said. "I know we're not the only church that has experienced cyber theft."

Father Bogacki said $600,000 was stolen from the Des Moines Diocese in Iowa before the thief struck St. John's. The suspect somehow obtained the churches' banking credentials and made several electronic withdrawals. That suspect was arrested in California.

"This doesn't change what we do as a parish," Father Bogacki said. "We pray, we gather around the Eucharist, and we proclaim the Gospel. This is an unfortunate blip but we'll move on and we'll continue to proclaim the Gospel."

The Secret Service recovered $84,000 of the stolen money. The church hopes insurance will cover much of the rest. Investigators are now trying to figure out how the suspect got access to the parish's checking account.

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