on March 21, 2017 at 12:39 PM, updated March 21, 2017 at 12:40 PM
OWOSSO, MI — A Catholic church in Shiawassee County is reeling after it was discovered the former pastor there is accused of stealing nearly $500,000.
The Rev. David Fisher was in charge of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Owosso for 23 years and retired to North Dakota in June 2015.
A new pastor was brought in and noticed some figures were off with the parish’s finances, according to Michael Diebold, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.
“They started seeing some anomalies,” Diebold said. “It became obvious real soon that there was something amiss.”
The Diocese contacted the Michigan State Police and it was recommended a forensic audit, Diebold said.
The audit revealed there was $450,000 missing, according to Diebold.
Fisher was arrested in North Dakota on suspicion of seven counts of embezzlement, Michigan State Police Detective/Sgt. Mark Pendergraff said.
The investigation into the suspected thefts can only go back six years due to the statute of limitations, according to Pendergraff.
Fisher was charged with a count of embezzlement of over $100,000 from a charitable organization and the other six counts of for alleged embezzlement of lesser amounts, Pendergraff said.
Church secretary Nancy DeFrenn also was arrested, according to Pendergraff. She is charged with a single count of embezzlement from a charitable organization of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000.
“We didn’t give out specifically what they were using the money for, but they converted it for personal use — things like paying bills and other things,” Pendergraff said.
Fisher is fighting extradition back to Michigan, according to Pendergraff. A hearing on the extradition is set for March 29.
“We’re staying out of it,” Diebold said. “This is all in the hands of the Michigan State Police and the Shiawassee County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Fisher spent 23 years leading St. Joseph, Diebold said.
“Bishop [Earl] Boyea is asking for prayers for everyone involved — for the parishioners of St. Joseph it’s a shock to them,” Diebold said.
A prayer service and question and answer session led by Boyea is set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, according to the chruch’s website.
A former Mid-Michigan priest is arrested, accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from a church in Owosso.
70-year old David Fisher was arrested on March 11 in Grand Forks, North Dakota where he relocated after his retirement in 2015.
His secretary, Nancy DeFrenn, was also arrested and was arraigned Friday in a Shiawassee court.The two are accused of stealing from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Owosso. Authorities say the church money was used for personal use.
Michigan State Police say the investigation into the retired priest and the church secretary was launched after Fisher retired in June of 2015. An internal audit conducted by the Diocese of Lansing showed the numbers were off. Authorities believe the embezzlement happened between 2009 and 2015.
Fisher is currently awaiting extradition back to Mid-Michigan on March 31. He faces seven counts of embezzlement and could receive to 20 years in prison if convicted. DeFrenn is free on bond and could face up to ten years in prison if convicted.
Former priest, secretary charged with embezzling over 100k from church
By Mark Bullion |
OWOSSO (WJRT) – (03/20/17) – A former church priest and secretary have been arrested after Michigan State Police say they embezzled over $100,000 from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Owosso.
Seventy-year-old David Fisher was arrested on March 11 in Grand Forks, ND, where he lives. Nancy DeFrenn was arraigned Friday, March 17 in Shiawassee County Court and is out on bond.
“Nobody can believe it,” said parishioner Milan Staesa.
Staesa’s been a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church since he was a little kid. He had no idea this was going on while Fisher served as the church’s priest.
“He was real nice to people; he was here 23 years,” he said.
During six of those years, Michigan State Police said that Fisher and Defrenn embezzled more than $100,000.
“We’ve conducted a thorough investigation and documented that there was in fact money spent inappropriately by the priest and also by the secretary,” said Det. Mark Pendergraff, of the Michigan State Police.
The investigation was launched after Fisher retired in June 2015 and an internal audit was conducted by the diocese of Lansing. The numbers from that audit did not add up.”It’s unbelievable, you know, that he could do that,” said parishioner Iona Remenec.
Remenec has been a part of St. Joseph for 60 years and never in a million years did she think something like this would happen. She described Fisher as a great priest.
“Friendly, give you a hug when you left church. He just never seemed the type,” she said.
Fisher is awaiting an extradition hearing back to Michigan. That is set for March 31. He could face up to 20 years behind bars.
DeFrenn could face up to 10 years.