The Ottawa Citizen
July 25, 2012 10:01 AM
By Andrew Seymour, The Ottawa Citizen
Father Joseph LeClair, 55, was charged earlier this month with fraud, theft, money laundering and breach of trust after an 11-month police investigation into financial irregularities at Blessed Sacrament Church.
OTTAWA — Father Joseph LeClair was not in court Wednesday for his first appearance on fraud allegations.
Lawyer Kim Hyslop appeared on LeClair’s behalf, in lieu of LeClair’s lawyer, Matthew Webber. A justice of the peace set the matter over to Sept. 5 to allow the Crown time to provide disclosure, or the evidence against LeClair.
LeClair was not required to appear in court.
“This is a complex matter and we anticipate there being lengthy disclosure,” Hyslop said.
LeClair, 55, was charged earlier this month with fraud, theft, money laundering and breach of trust after an 11-month police investigation into financial irregularities at Blessed Sacrament Church.
The Ottawa police fraud investigated a period of more than five years — from January, 2006 to May, 2011 — and found that more than $240,000 was allegedly misappropriated by LeClair through cheques issued by the priest on church accounts.
Another $160,000 of parish funds were unaccounted for, the police said, while approximately $20,000 in furniture and household items belonging to the parish were allegedly taken from the rectory when the priest left to begin addictions treatment.
LeClair was released after his July 3 arrest on a promise to appear notice. He has always denied taking money from church coffers, and none of the allegations against him have been proven in court.
The Citizen first raised serious questions about financial irregularities at Blessed Sacrament in a story published in April 2011. It revealed LeClair had a casino gambling problem and had incurred $490,000 in personal credit card bills during the years 2009 and 2010. More than $137,000 of those credit card charges were the result of advances taken at Casino du Lac-Leamy. The same story revealed that Blessed Sacrament had few controls on the way in which church money was handled.
Four months after the Citizen published its story, the Archdiocese of Ottawa filed a police complaint based on an audit of Blessed Sacrament’s books conducted by the firm, Deloitte and Touche.