OWOSSO, MI (WLNS) – There’s a saying that goes “practice what you preach” and as a result of a Michigan State Police investigation, a former pastor and church secretary have found themselves in trouble with the law after police say they both pocketed thousands of dollars of church money for personal use.
“We’ve conducted a thorough investigation and documented that there was money that was spent inappropriately,” Michigan State Police Det. Sgt. Mark Pendergraff said.
According to police, Rev. David Fisher and Nancy DeFrenn, both familiar faces of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Owosso are now facing criminal charges after prosecutors say they allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the church and its charitable fund for nearly six years; Something that wasn’t discovered until 2015 when Fisher retired. The news has sent shockwaves through the community.
“When I opened the paper yesterday I was absolutely devastated,” Kari Selleck said. She used to be a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church. “I thought he was a lovely man and was dedicated to the church. So I’m very surprised.”
“We put faith in our pastors and we hope that they’ll do right by us and then sometimes they get a little less human, I mean more human I should say, and less spiritual,” Bruce Buysse said.
Prosecutors believe Fisher and DeFrenn wrote checks from the church’s accounts for personal purchases and according to a state police detective, it’s believed Fisher had been using the money for at least five years before he retired.
The former pastor now faces seven counts of embezzlement. DeFrenn is facing one count and despite these charges, both have maintained their innocence..
“They gotta have trial and if they’re found guilty then they pay the consequences,” one man said.
Michael Diebold from the Diocese of Lansing released a statement saying: “The Diocese of Lansing asks prayers for everyone involved. Inquiries regarding the facts of the ongoing criminal proceedings should be addressed to law enforcement.”
Fischer is out on bond awaiting an extradition hearing back in Michigan on March 31, however police say that could be pushed back to April. DeFrenn however is currently behind bars and is also expected to be back in court the end of March.