MSP seeks embezzlement charge against SW Mich. priest

rev. richard-fritz-100916_251656

An undated photo of Rev. Richard Fritz.

CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A Catholic priest who authorities say stole more than $213,000 from the southwest Michigan churches where he was pastor could face a felony embezzlement charge.

Michigan State Police requested the charge against Rev. Richard Fritz on Thursday. The Branch County prosecutor is expected to make a decision about whether to file that charge in about a week.

MSP has been investigating allegations that Fritz has been stealing from both St. Mary’s Assumption in Bronson and St. Barbara Mission in Colon since 2010. Fritz had been the pastor at St. Mary’s since 1990 and also pulled double-duty at St. Barbara starting in 1996. He has resigned as pastor, though he is still a priest.

The allegations came to light last year after an audit of the finances at St. Mary’s and St. Barbara. Police confirmed in November that gambling is the “undertone” of their investigation. Workers at a convenience store across the street from St. Mary’s told 24 Hour News 8 that Fritz spent hundreds of dollars a day — sometimes up to $500 — on lottery tickets. A gas station worker near St. Barbara also said Fritz stopped by to buy lottery tickets.

In a Thursday statement, the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo said it “prayerfully continues to be committed to working with civil authorities in seeking a just and proper resolution for all involved.” The diocese declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

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