Former priest accused of embezzling church funds

July 18th, 2011 by Staff

BONITA SPRINGS - Parishioners of St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Bonita Springs are learning new details of the church’s final financial reports.

It shows that $1 million went unaccounted for, and many believe the man at the center of the scandal is the church’s former leader, Father Stan Strycharz.

In a letter, the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice wrote to the congregation. They say Father Strycharz was allegedly caught stealing a lot of money by an independent accounting firm.

These allegations are some of many that had him put on administrative leave.

Those expenses include approximately $665,000 of parish funds used to pay Father Strycharz’ personal credit card statements, nearly $172,000 paid for tuition, and other educational expenses for the children of the former business manager.

The letter goes on to allege nepotism, saying the father of the former business manager received $45,000 as an advisor.

And the parish also paid almost $150,000 to a painting service which was owner by Father Strycharz’ brother.

“Be accountable to the way a priest manages the finances of a parish and within that it was clear father Stan didn’t cooperate with financial auditors,” said Billy Atwell from the Diocese of Venice.

The letter from the Dioceses says the report was completed in May 2011, but Strycharz refused to cooperate and offered no explanation for the expenses.

“There are a lot of questions left because he refused to cooperate,” Atwell says.

Father Strycharz has been on leave from the church since July 23, 2010. He isn’t allowed to perform Mass, but he’s still receiving full pay and benefits.

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