LeClair defrauded Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament Church of $130,000
Posted: Feb 26, 2015 8:54 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 26, 2015 8:54 AM ET
Father Joe LeClair joined Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity Parish near Moncton, NB as an assistant priest in January 2015, church staff told CBC News.
LeClair, a diagnosed pathological gambler, pleaded guilty to defrauding Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament Church over the course of five years, between 2006 and 2011.
He was sentenced to one year in jail but released in Nov. 2014 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.
At the time of his guilty plea in January 2014, the Archdiocese of Ottawa promised to work with LeClair to rejoin the ministry.
“Aware of his many talents and his 25 years of effective pastoral ministry, we will work with Father LeClair in his desire to return to the exercise of his priestly ministry,” the statement said.
The Archdiocese of Ottawa has refused to comment further since that time.
Ottawa priest jailed for theft and fraud, back in the ministry at New Brunswick parish
Published Wednesday, February 25, 2015 National Post
OTTAWA — Months after being released from jail, Rev. Joseph LeClair is once again an active member of the clergy, ministering to parishioners in the Archdiocese of Moncton in New Brunswick.
Rev. LeClair, 57, widely known in Ottawa as Father Joe, is now serving as an assistant priest at Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity Parish, which comprises four churches in and around Moncton.
He has been in his new position since January.
Rev. LeClair, a native of Prince Edward Island, quietly resettled on the East Coast two months after being released from the Central East Region Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., where he served two-thirds of a year-long sentence for theft and fraud.
He remains subject to a probation order issued by Ontario Court Justice Jack Nadelle in March 2014.
‘They know where I’ve been and what I’ve been through’
In a brief interview Wednesday, Rev. LeClair said he was happy to be back in a priestly ministry. His new parishioners have been told about his past. “They know where I’ve been and what I’ve been through, yes,” he said.
He moved to New Brunswick because he wanted to be near his parents, now in their 80s. “I’m close to them,” he said, “and I want to spend some time with them.”
Rev. LeClair declined to discuss his time in jail, saying: “I don’t have anything to offer on that.”
For years, Rev. LeClair was among the best-known Catholic priests in Ottawa. He made Blessed Sacrament Parish one of the most successful churches in the city, hosted a Sunday morning radio show on CFRA, and officiated at the weddings of, among others, former mayor Larry O’Brien and Senators defenceman Chris Phillips.
In 2009, he was recognized by the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre for his role in destigmatizing mental illness. Rev. LeClair spoke regularly in public about his personal battles with anxiety and depression.
A charismatic, energetic priest, he earned a loyal following at Blessed Sacrament in the Glebe.
All of which made the Citizen’s front-page story in April 2011 such a shock: The story described Rev. LeClair’s gambling habit and his heavy credit card debts. It also exposed Blessed Sacrament’s lack of financial controls.
In 2014, Rev. LeClair admitted to five years of fraud and theft at Blessed Sacrament. Court heard that the overworked priest turned to alcohol in an attempt to ease his anxiety, but his heavy Scotch consumption only facilitated his gambling. He was eventually diagnosed as a pathological gambler.
An audit found that $1.16 million moved through the priest’s personal account between January 2006 and December 2010.
Officials from the Archdiocese of Moncton did not respond to a request for comment.