A disgraced Catholic priest who stole from his parishioners to buy a condo in Florida and play the stock market is heading to federal prison.
Father Edward Belczak essentially gave a sermon during his sentencing, speaking at length about himself and how he let so many people down.
Belczak admits he stole $572,775.82 from his former parishioners at St. Thomas More Church in Troy. The 70-year-old pleaded guilty to mail fraud in September. Tuesday afternoon, he apologized to a packed courtroom as a federal judge sentenced him to 27 months in prison.
His attorney told the court the priest had lost his way, but deserved only home confinement. As part of his plea deal, the minimum guideline for the sentence was 34 months, but the judge went below that.
“I think 27 months might be a little high but then he did it not to punish him, he did it for general deterrence, to let everyone else know. And that’s a valid reason under the statute,” said Belczak’s lawyer, Jerome Sabbota. Sabbota gave the court dozens of letters from supporters who did not want the priest to do any time behind bars.
Shelley Kletter thinks he deserves a tougher sentence. She says she once worked at a Catholic facility for Alzheimer’s patients where Father Belczak’s mother stayed and Kletter calls this priest disrespectful.
“There are two sides – and he’s not that wonderful person. I can’t believe he stole money from them and they back him. I saw how he treated innocent people with Alzheimer’s,” said Kletter.
Belczak will also be on supervised release for two years after he gets out of prison. He has to pay restitution. Federal prosecutors will be seizing his Palm Beach-area condo and his stock market accounts as part of forfeiture proceedings.
He told the judge Tuesday that someone from the Archdiocese of Detroit told him that he wasn’t allowed to wear his collar to court. He is still a priest, but he’s not allowed to give public mass.