Police Find $63,000 In Ceiling Of Home Of Priest Accused Of Embezzling Millions

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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Michigan police claim to have discovered $63,000 in cash hidden in the ceiling of the home of a priest accused of embezzling millions from his parish.

Police conducted the search of Father Jonathan Wehrle’s house in Williamston, Michigan, Tuesday and found the cash in bundles of $2,000, each labeled “For Deposit Only-St. Martha’s Parish.” Wehrle is charged with six counts of embezzling over $100,000 from St. Martha’s church and authorities allege he spent parish funds on his private residence, valued at over $1 million. (RELATED: Exorcist Cleanses House Of Idaho Priest Arrested For Child Porn And Drug Possession)

Lawrence Nolan, defense attorney for Wehrle, declined to comment on the discovery of the cash and announced he will withdraw from the case.

The police have seized over $1.1 million from Wehrle, though auditors claim over $5 million remain unaccounted for. Wehrle, who founded St. Martha’s Parish in 1988, claims he had a deal with a now deceased bishop allowing him to use parish funds for his residence, according to Crux Now. While priests normally stay in a rectory owned by the church, St. Martha’s church does not have one. Wehrle’s private residence has six bedrooms, 12 bathrooms and 10 fireplaces, as well as three barns on the grounds.

The Diocese of Lansing placed Wehrle on administrative leave in 2017.

In light of his defense attorney’s withdrawal, a non-profit group known as Opus Bono Sacerdotii has started fundraising for new defense for Wehrle.

“For Father Wehrle, this is quite literally an apocalyptic moment. He is unable to pay his legal team for a competent defense, and is now faced with the horrifying reality that, without the best defense possible, he will live the remainder of his years in state prison. Father Wehrle gets one chance at this; if he does not raise the cost of the legal fees now, he will lose his opportunity for justice, and for his freedom,” a letter from the organization reads, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Joe Maher, president of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, said the organization aids priests in the midst of legal trouble no matter whether they are innocent or guilty, though they do require a sincere expression of contrition in cases where a priest is guilty. Maher, however, believes that Wehrle is innocent.

“I don’t believe that there has been a criminal act or criminal intent,” Maher said, according to the Lansing State Journal. “I don’t believe that (Wehrle) is guilty of embezzlement, and I think that will come out at the trial.”

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