“Father Joe LeClair released from jail for good behaviour” & related article

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CBC News

18 November 2014

A popular Ottawa priest who stole $130,000 from his church is now out of jail after he was let out for good behaviour.

Father Joe LeClair, a diagnosed pathological gambler, pleaded guilty to defrauding Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament Church of the money over the course of five years.

He was sentenced in March to one year in jail and one year probation in an Ottawa courtroom.

He served two-thirds of his jail sentence and was to be released on Nov. 18 on “earned remission,” after which he will be on probation for a year.

LeClair was released earlier, on Nov. 9, after he was granted a temporary absence.

Documents from the Ontario Parole Board approving his release comment on LeClair’s good behaviour in custody and while he was awaiting trial.

His probation is conditional on good behaviour, being assessed and that he continues to receive counselling.

Church said it would aid LeClair’s return to ministry

The Catholic Archidiocese of Ottawa investigated Father LeClair after a media report on financial irregularities at the Blessed Sacrament Church.

Fraud investigators said he stole tens of thousands of dollars from the church in cheques between 2006 and 2011.

Sarah Du Broy from the Archidiocese of Ottawa said the church has no comment on Father LeClair’s release, saying the church stands by its statement from January of this year.

In that statement, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said the church stood behind the priest and would work with him so he can return to the ministry.

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Father Joe LeClair released from jail

Ottawa Citizen

Published on: November 18, 2014Last Updated: November 18, 2014 1:50 PM EST

MEGHAN HURLEY

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Father Joe LeClair has been released from jail after serving two-thirds of his sentence for fraud charges.  Mike Carroccetto / Ottawa Citizen

Father Joseph LeClair was released from jail earlier this month after serving almost two-thirds of his sentence for stealing $130,000 from Sunday collections and church accounts at Blessed Sacrament Parish in the Glebe.

The convicted fraudster was granted a temporary absence by the Ontario Parole Board that began on Nov. 9 and ended Tuesday.

It means LeClair was released from jail nine days early: He would have been released Tuesday after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

The parole board said in a decision that they granted LeClair a temporary absence from the Central East Region Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont. for good behaviour. The board said LeClair’s release poses minimal risk to the public and his release plan was well structured.

“You have been working on the outside crew for several months and you have done excellent work,” the Ontario Parole Board decision says. “There is much support for you from the employees of the institution.”

The decision also noted that LeClair spent three years in the community before he was sentenced to a year in jail, didn’t breach his release conditions and attended “extensive counselling.”

“You present as a man remorseful for your actions and the hurt you have caused those close to you,” the decision said.

LeClair was also granted a temporary absence so that he could attend an assessment prior to further treatment at the same institution he went to before he was sentenced to a year in jail on March 19.

LeClair had applied for parole earlier this year after serving one-third of his sentence, but his application was denied on July 8. The parole board said LeClair’s release plan was not specific enough to allow for early parole.

It means, LeClair was released from jail nine days early: He would have been released Tuesday after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

The parole board said in a decision that they granted LeClair a temporary absence for good behaviour from the Central East Region Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont.

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Father Joe LeClair sentenced to one year for stealing from parish
LeClair had applied for parole earlier this year after serving one-third of his sentence, but his application was denied on July 8. The parole board said LeClair’s release plan was not specific enough to allow for early parole.

LeClair pleaded guilty on Jan. 20 to theft and fraud charges. He had initially proclaimed his innocence after the Citizen first raised concerns about financial irregularities at the church in early 2011.

Those irregularities were confirmed by a Deloitte and Touche audit that found $1.16 million had been deposited into LeClair’s personal account between January 2006 and December 2010 and that $769,000 of that was his salary, legitimate stipends and gifts from parishioners or casino winnings.

Roughly $400,000 of the $1.16 million deposited into LeClair’s personal account could not be explained. For the purposes of a plea deal, the Crown accepted that LeClair defrauded Blessed Sacrament of $130,000.

The Ottawa Archdiocese received a $379,000 insurance settlement for money that was misappropriated from Blessed Sacrament during the last five years of LeClair’s tenure as parish priest.

LeClair was sentenced to one year in jail for what Ontario Court Justice Jack Nadelle described as a sizable fraud that lasted five years.

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