Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. church accountant charged in $500K theft

Dozens of fraud and forgery-related charges have been laid against a former accountant at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's after more than $500,000 was reported missing in January.
The Roman Catholic Basilica of St. John the Baptist is one of the churches of the Archdiocese of St. John's. (CBC)

Dozens of fraud and forgery-related charges were laid Monday against a former accountant at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's after more than $500,000 was reported missing in January.

Former business manager Bill Power worked with the archdiocese for 38 years.

He has been charged with 35 offences alleged to have happened from 2003 to 2010, including:

  • 10 counts of forgery.
  • 10 counts of uttering forged documents.
  • 8 counts of fraud over $5,000.
  • 5 counts of fraud under $5,000.
  • 1 count of criminal breach of trust.
  • 1 count of unauthorized use of a computer.

The church filed a complaint with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's economic crime unit in January, alleging its own internal investigation uncovered the theft of about $500,000.

Archbishop Martin Currie said at the time that the money had gone missing from the church's operating budget and the theft could have been going on since 1997.

"This review uncovered significant discrepancies in the operating account of the archdiocese," the archdiocese said in a news release on Jan. 24.

"We determined that our former comptroller and business manager made unauthorized payments to himself, and to his pension account, throughout this period."

Parishioners informed

Donated money is used to fund chaplaincy services in hospitals such as the Janeway, St. Clare's, the Health Sciences Centre, the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre and the Miller Centre, and in seniors homes and long-term-care facilities.

Last October, priests read a letter to parishioners at churches in eastern Newfoundland that said a business manager with the organization resigned recently, and an independent auditor had been hired to investigate the churches' finances.

The archdiocese said it hired an auditing company last year to review its books dating back to 2003.

Power, of Outer Cove, near St. John's, resigned from the church last fall. When called by CBC News in January, he would give no comment.

He was released Monday and will be back in court Aug. 2.

The archdiocese — which covers most of the Avalon and Burin peninsulas — brought in tougher financial guidelines after the internal audit.