Windsor

Rev. Robert Couture's trips to Europe, Disney funded by stolen cash, court told

A southern Ontario Catholic priest embezzled more than $150,000 and used it to fund a lavish lifestyle that included trips to Europe, New York, Disney theme parks and fine dining, the Crown said to open the trial of Robert Couture.

Priest said to have overcharged for 'prayer teams' to come to funerals

The Crown alleges Robert Couture stole from collection plates when he was a priest at Ste. Anne Parish in Tecumseh, Ont. Couture's trial opened in Windsor, Ont. (CBC File Photo)

A southern Ontario Catholic priest embezzled more than $150,000 and used it to fund a lavish lifestyle that included trips to Europe, New York, Disney theme parks and fine dining, the Crown said to open the trial of Robert Couture.

Robert Couture was Ste. Anne Parish's priest in Tecumseh, just east of Windsor, when he was charged with one count of theft over $5,000 nearly two years ago.

Provincial police claim an audit of the parish's accounts revealed at least $169,000 in irregularities.

His three-week trial began in a Superior Court of Justice courtroom in Windsor on Tuesday.

Couture is alleged to have stolen money in a number of ways.

The Crown claims he stole from collection plates and told funeral homes they had to pay $260 for "prayer teams" to come to funerals. It's alleged Couture would then give the church cheques for only $125 to $140, and pocket the rest.

In opening remarks, Crown prosecutor Tom Meehan told the jury that Couture opened a bank account in the name of the parish, but only he had access to it.

Justice S. K. Campbell is presiding over the case.

Police say officials from the parish first contacted them in August 2011, regarding an alleged internal theft that occurred between 2002 and 2010.

The parish then asked KPMG to carry out a forensic audit, which took two years and found thousands of dollars in "missing funds," prompting the parish to contact police.