It doesn't add up: audit shows priest spent a million on personal items

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The year-long internal investigation into the suspected misdeeds of the popular priest at St. Leo Catholic Church in Bonita Springs is coming to a close.

Southwest Florida Bishop Frank J. Dewane placed Rev. Stan Strycharz on administrative leave in late July 2010, with full pay, pending an internal investigation into several allegations about Strycharz, both personal and financial.

A conclusion to the financial allegations was announced in a letter inserted in the church bulletin and handed out to parishioners at the end of mass Saturday night and throughout the day Sunday.

“At least $1 million in unsupported or questionable expenses remain, for which Fr. Strycharz has offered neither justification nor satisfactory explanations to the independent auditors,” Dewane wrote in the letter to parishioners.

The forensic audit was conducted by Larson Allen of Naples. The firm completed the audit in May, said Diocese spokesman Billy Atwell. Church officials then reviewed their findings, Atwell said, before releasing the primary conclusions.

Otis Wragg, founder of the Miami-based Wragg & Casas public relations firm, which has an office in Bonita Springs, remains a spokesman for Strycharz’s supporters, who formed a group called Save the Diocese of Southwest Florida.

Wragg became aware of the letter but had yet to receive it until after 5 p.m. Sunday and said his firm would be available to respond likely on Monday.

“It’s impossible to comment tonight. We would like time to respond,” Wragg said. “You can’t do it on a knee-jerk that’s all,” he said.

The expenses that were insufficiently accounted for include approximately $665,000 of parish funds used to pay Strycharz’s personal credit card statements, for which no sales receipts or invoices were provided by Strycharz or located at the parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, according to the letter.

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