Tag Archive: Jonathan Wehrle

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Jonathan Wehrle Accused of Embezzling Millions From Church

jonathan wehrle

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.

Jonathan Wehrle, pastor of St. Martha Church in Okemos, Michigan, stands accused of embezzling more than $5 million from his church, using the money to lavishly improve his properties. Evidently, taking a vow of poverty meant something different to Wehrle than it did other Catholic priests. I previously wrote about Wehrle’s crimes in May, 2017.

The Lansing State Journal reports:

A Catholic priest accused of embezzling more than $5 million from his central Michigan church spent about $100,000 on an indoor swimming pool and stained glass windows for his six-bedroom, 12-bathroom home, according to a lawsuit seeking to recoup some of the money.

In addition to the $45,000 indoor pool and nearly $55,000 in stained glass windows, the Rev. Jonathan Wehrle spent more than $134,000 on landscaping at his 10-acre (4-hectare) estate in Williamston and other properties, according to the lawsuit filed by Princeton Excess and Surplus Lines Insurance Corporation, which insures the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

Wehrle faces six counts of embezzling $100,000 or more from St. Martha Church in Okemos, which is just east of Lansing and about 70 miles west of Detroit. Prosecutors allege that Wehrle spent the money on himself, including to build and maintain the estate.

The home, which has 10 fireplaces and three barns, was appraised at $1.28 million in 2012, when construction was only halfway complete, according to court records.

Police said bills for work on the property matched checks written from St. Martha.

Wehrle’s defense attorney, Lawrence Nolan, said the pastor had family money and an agreement with a bishop, now deceased, to use parish funds for a private residence.

Assistant prosecutor Andrew Stevens has said that Wehrle, who founded St. Martha in 1988, had “maintained pretty autonomous control” for nearly 30 years.

Princeton Excess also sued Wehrle this month after learning he wasn’t paying property taxes and that his homeowner’s insurance had lapsed, according to attorney Randy Marmor.

Wehrle’s estate was placed into receivership after a judge approved the insurer’s request Wednesday, the Lansing State Journal reported . The insurer said it’s paid out about $2.5 million to the diocese so far and wants to protect assets to cover those losses.

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Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Jonathan Wehrle Charged With Embezzlement

jonathan wehrle

On Monday, Jonathan Wehrle, founding pastor of St. Martha Parish in Okemos, Michigan, was charged with embezzlement.

The Lansing State Journal reports:

An Okemos priest arrested Saturday on the 39th anniversary of his ordination was charged Monday afternoon with embezzlement from his church.

The Rev. Jonathan Wayne Wehrle, 66, was arrested Saturday at his home in Williamston. He was charged Monday with embezzlement of $100,000 or more in 55th District Court in Mason.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Magistrate Mark Blumer set bond at $5,000.

“I’ve known Father for almost 30 years, he’s not a thief and he is not an embezzler,” said Wehrle’s attorney, Lawrence Nolan. “This is a guy who dedicated his life to the Catholic Church.”

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing announced last week that Wehrle, the founding pastor of St. Martha Parish in Okemos, was placed on administrative leave May 9 during an investigation into “possible significant embezzlement” at the church.

A statement from the diocese said the possible embezzlement was uncovered by independent auditors and referred to police.

Detective First Lt. Thomas DeClercq, commander of the Michigan State Police 1st District special investigations section, said his unit has worked closely with the diocese to expedite imaging of computers so as not to interfere with school or administrative functions of the church.

DeClercq said the investigation into embezzlement at the church is ongoing and additional charges are anticipated.

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Today, The Lansing Journal reports that Jonathan Wehrle used $1.85 million to purchase and renovate his home. Beth LeBlanc writes:

Auditors believe an Okemos priest charged with embezzlement Monday spent about $1.85 million in parish funds on his home.

Check stubs and invoices indicate funds from St. Martha Parish in Okemos were spent on work and materials at Wehrle’s Noble Road home, according to testimony at a court hearing Monday.

The 10-acre Williamston property, according to county assessing records, includes an 11,345-square-foot home with a cash value of $1.48 million. The property also has three barns ranging from 1,792 to 2,304 square feet with a combined cash value of about $148,000.

Taxes on the property in 2016 were $25,106, according to county records.

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