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Troy — Dozens of people are seeking mercy for a Detroit-area Catholic priest who could go to prison for stealing money.

The Rev. Ed Belczak returns to federal court Tuesday for his sentence. He pleaded guilty to fraud in an embezzlement scheme at St. Thomas More Church in Troy. Investigators say he stole about $573,000.

Some of that money was used to buy a Florida condominium from his church manager.

In a letter to the judge, auto dealer Jeffrey Cauley says Belczak has touched thousands of lives. Kathleen Marshall says she would welcome him back as pastor at St. Thomas More.

But prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison sentence, saying probation would be a “gentle wrist-slap.”

Belczak’s attorney says he had been drinking heavily and gambling on the stock market.

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