The Rev. Edward Belczak )
Pontiac — An Oakland Circuit judge ruled Monday that assets of a former St. Thomas More Parish priest, totaling at least $300,000, should remain frozen after being told federal authorities want to seize the accounts.
The Rev. Edward Belczak, the popular longtime pastor at the Troy parish, is not criminally charged but apparently remains at the center of an ongoing probe involving Troy police and federal agencies of “questionable transactions and practices” at the parish.
Belczak, 67, was “temporarily excluded” as head of the Troy parish in January 2013 by the archdiocese after the internal audit revealed questions about $429,000 in expenditures under his supervision. While not charged, Belczak, pastor for 30 years, was banned from celebrating Mass and was also ordered out of his church-provided lodgings.
Troy police subsequently obtained a search warrant and had Belczak’s Merrill Lynch accounts frozen under an investigation that now includes the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to court files.
Belczak’s attorney, William Hosler, has sought to quash the Troy search warrant, claiming it amounts to a seizure and is improper because Belczak has been deprived of his rightful assets without being charged with any crimes.
“It (the warrant) is 223 days old today and nothing has been done,” Judge Denise Langford Morris told attorneys Monday.
Troy city attorney Julie Quinlan Dufrane disagreed with Morris, saying “federal agencies have picked up the ball to run with it.”
Dufrane said she learned Monday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office planned to obtain its own warrant to freeze Belczak’s Merrill Lynch accounts but it would likely take a couple of days to process the needed federal affidavit.
“You have a seven-day order — seven business days — to do what you need to do,” Morris said at the hearing, not attended by Belczak.
In a news release last year, the archdiocese said it was concerned about Belczak’s financial dealings. The priest’s annual salary was in the mid-$30,000 range. At issue, according to the archdiocese release, is at least $108,000 in unauthorized compensation; other money he paid himself over the past six years and compensating a “ghost employee” $240,000 over the past six years.
Also at issue is Belczak’s purchase of a $500,000 Florida condominium in 2005 from a former church employee.