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UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Embezzlement Charges Against Catholic Priest Richard Fritz Dismissed

richard fritz

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2017, Richard Fritz, priest for several Michigan parishes, was charged with embezzling $213,000 from St. Mary’s Assumption in Bronson and St. Barbara Mission in Colon. Those charges were later dismissed.

The Daily Reporter reports:

St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough has charged Rev. Richard Fritz with embezzlement of more than $ 100,000 from the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo. The information for the 20-year felony said the complaining party was St. Barbara Parish in Colon. He served that parish, as well as St. Mary’s of Assumption Catholic Church in Bronson.

Father Fritz was arraigned on the charge April 24 in St. Joseph County District Court booked, fingerprinted, and released on a $15,000 personal recognizance bond. A pre-exam conference is scheduled for Tuesday and a preliminary hearing will be held a week later on May 16, according to computer records.

….

In October 2016 the Diocese of Kalamazoo announced that it had turned over to Michigan State Police findings from an independent forensic audit involving St. Mary’s Assumption parish in Bronson and St. Barbara Parish in Colon, “because of what appeared to be questionable financial transactions and practices at both parishes,” records state.

During a six-year period, the audit raised questions about checks in the amount of more than $213,000, written and cashed by the priest.

….

Father Fritz resigned as pastor at St. Mary’s last October, amidst the investigation.

In 2020, Fritz was accused of sexual misconduct.

MLive reported:

A retired priest once accused of embezzlement is now under investigation for sexual abuse from the late 1970s and early 1980s, leaders with the Diocese of Kalamazoo say.

A statement from the Diocese issued Friday, Feb. 21 named Father Richard Fritz and said allegations made against him have been deemed credible.

A Diocesan review board, consisting of experts in sexual abuse as well as clergy, made the finding about the credibility.

Fritz also came under scrutiny in 2017 when he was accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from the church. The embezzlement investigation focused on his activities at St. Mary’s Assumption church in Bronson and St. Barbara church in Colon.

The charges ultimately were dismissed, according to a report from the The Daily Reporter in Coldwater.

In the Diocese statement issued Friday, church officials say they are not aware of any additional complaints of sexual abuse against Fritz.

Fritz was ordained on May 23, 1975, in Lakeport and incardinated to the Diocese of Kalamazoo on November 24, 1981. He retired in October 2016 amid the embezzlement investigation.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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