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Deacon to serve year for collection plate theft

A 73-year-old church deacon from Grand Haven, Michigan, will spend a year in jail after pleading guilty to stealing money from his parish's collection plate. The man pleaded guilty in March to two counts of larceny of more than $20,000 in connection with the thefts, which ultimately resulted in a $120,000 shortfall for the church.

The judge exceeded the sentence recommended by prosecutors; they had suggested that the man only spend 10 months in jail. Instead, he will serve a full year without the possibility of work release. Presentencing investigators had encouraged the court to limit the jail time to just 60 days. Even though the sentence was heavier than expected, it still fit within state guidelines, which mandate zero through 17 months' imprisonment.

In addition to the time spent in jail, the man must also serve four years' probation and 250 hours of community service. He also must repay the entire amount that he pilfered from the collection plates; he has already paid $2,500 toward that effort. Furthermore, the man will be responsible for legal fees and costs.

Authorities report that the man had been employed at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Grand Haven for 11 years before the theft was uncovered. The man admitted to stealing money from the collection plates from 2007 to 2012, when he was terminated as an ordained deacon. Forensic accountants concluded that the man took a variety of evasive actions to protect his financial deception. The man had been officially ordained into the Catholic clergy in 2005.

Church officials report that the establishment struggled financially during the Great Recession, which started in 2007 and ended in 2011. The stolen money contributed to that hardship.

If you are facing theft or larceny charges, consider seeking the assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney. These professionals can help you understand more about the charges levied against you, protecting your rights throughout the entire courtroom process.

Source:  mlive.com, "Grand Haven Catholic deacon sentenced to jail for stealing $120,000 from St. Patrick's collection plates" John S. Hausman, Apr. 29, 2013