UPDATE: Okemos priest facing embezzlement charges in court

MASON, Mich. (AP) – An audit so far has found that nearly $5 million is missing from a Roman Catholic church near Lansing.

The disclosure was made Friday during a court hearing for the Rev. Jonathan Wehrle (WUR’-lee), who is charged with embezzling $100,000 or more from St. Martha Church in Okemos.

Wehrle’s attorney, Lawrence Nolan, says $5 million is a “new high water mark.”

The priest lives in an 11,000-square-foot home on 10 acres worth more than $1 million in Williamston. Nolan says money from Wehrle’s family could have paid for it.

Retired Bishop Carl Mengeling says priests usually live on church grounds. A Lansing-area judge must decide whether there’s enough evidence to send Wehrle to trial.

The hearing will resume Sept. 1 with testimony from Bishop Earl Boyea.

MASON, Mich (WLNS) – Will a founding member of an Okemos Catholic church go to trial over embezzlement charges?

That’s what a judge in Mason will need to decide in the case of Father Jonathan Wehrle.

The preliminary examination began around 9 a.m. today.

So far at least one witness was called to testify.

Other witnesses are out of town and will testify at a later date.

Wehrle faces a charge of embezzlement of more than $100,000.

He was charged after an audit of St. Martha’s parish showed some financial inconsistencies.

According to law it’s a felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Rev. Wehrle owns a $1.4 million home in Williamston that could be seized by prosecutors because the property is part of the criminal case.

Police believe the priest used at least part of the stolen church funds on the Williamston home.

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