Thursday, December 31, 2015

Rev. Robert Couture guilty of embezzling $169K from church in Canada

A jury in Windsor has convicted a southern Ontario Catholic priest of embezzling more than $150,000 from his Tecumseh church.
Assistant Crown attorney Tom Meehan said Thursday he will seek jail time for Rev. Robert Couture.
Couture could face up to 10 years in jail, Meehan said outside the Ontario court of justice in Windsor.
Couture, 52, was released on a promise to appear Feb. 5, when a date will be set for sentencing.
Jurors began deliberations at 5 p.m. Wednesday before breaking at 8:30 p.m. They returned a guilty verdict at about 10 a.m. Thursday.
Meehan said he was pleased with the jury's verdict, calling Couture a trusted figure in the community who broke that trust.
During the trial, which started Nov. 24, the jury heard Couture used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle that included trips to Europe, New York, Disney theme parks and fine dining.
Couture was parish priest at Ste. Anne Parish's church in Tecumseh, just east of Windsor, when parish officials asked KPMG to conduct a forensic audit of the church's books. That investigation found thousands of dollars in missing funds between 2002 and 2010, and prompted the parish to contact police.
Ontario Provincial Police said the audit revealed at least $169,000 in irregularities, and Couture was charged with one count of theft over $5,000 nearly two years ago.
The Crown accused Couture of stealing in several ways, including taking money from collection plates and charging fees to funeral homes.
Couture would charge $260 for "prayer teams" to come to funerals, but he would then give the church cheques for only $125 to $140, and pocket the rest.
Second bank account
Couture told the jury he opened a second account for Ste. Anne without permission from the diocese.
When asked by the Crown why he needed this separate TD Bank account, considering Ste. Anne's already had an account at National Bank, Couture said used his "pastoral judgment."
Couture was the only person able to access the account, which he said he opened in order to simplify the distribution of money donated from his parishioners. He also said the bank account allowed…

No comments:

Post a Comment