Michigan State police say they discovered $63,000 hidden above ceiling tiles in the mansion of the Rev Jonathan Wehrle, above, a priest who is accused of embezzling millions.
The search of Wehrle’s home in Williamston was conducted on Tuesday. Police say money was in $2,000 bundles secured with cash bands that said, “For Deposit Only-St. Martha Parish.”
Wehrle is charged with six counts of embezzling $100,000 or more from St Martha Church in Okemos. He lived at a property worth more than $1 million. His trial is scheduled for August 13.
Authorities have seized $1.1 million from Wehrle, although auditors say more than $5 million is missing.
This report adds that Wehrle has been trying to raise $300,000 for his legal defence and is “in dire need of help,” according to a letter circulated on his behalf by Opus Bono, a Lapeer County-based charity that raises money to help priests. The letter says:
During a preliminary examination last year, prosecutors said Wehrle used parish funds to pay for work and materials at his more than 11,000-square-foot mansion. A court-appointed receiver now maintains the property and pays relevant insurance and utility bills.
An insurance carrier for the Catholic Diocese of Lansing has filed a civil lawsuit against Wehrle after paying out nearly $3 million in damages.
Earlier this year local Bishop Earl Boyea begged the faithful not to let the case destroy what they loved about their pastor.
Don’t forget all the good things Father did for you. He baptized your babies, buried your dead and witnessed your marriages.
The bishop said his message was one of:
Hate the sin but love the sinner.