TROY (WWJ/AP) – The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit says it has temporarily removed a priest from his suburban parish while it and police investigate accusations he mishandled at least $429,000 in church money over the past six years.

The archdiocese says it forced the Rev. Edward Belczak to step aside from his duties at St. Thomas More Parish in Troy during the probes. It says the 67-year-old remains a priest but cannot function as the parish’s pastor or remain in residence at the parish until an administrative review process is completed.

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The archdiocese says an audit found that Belczak paid a “ghost employee” $240,000. It says the priest also took $92,000 in compensation above what he’s supposed to get under church policies.

According to the archdiocese, Belczak directed funds to himself that should have been posted to parish accounts, estimating a loss to the parish of $16,000.

The archdiocese says Belczak also failed to record or deposit monies received through the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day special collections according to archdiocesan policies, an amount estimated over $10,000, which was found in an employee’s office desk.

Other misappropriations attributed to Belczak include maintaining improper medical and dental insurance coverage for an individual, estimating a loss of approximately $26,000; authorizing a long-term disability policy for one employee while not providing similar benefits to other parish staff members, estimating a loss of $20,000; and accepting, but not depositing or recording in parish accounts, residual commission checks to the St. Thomas More Travel Group, estimating a loss of $25,000.

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Troy Police Sergeant Andy Breidenich said invesigators are building a case against Belczak.

“We are investigating any and all financial fraud that may have occurred at the church, and we have a current ongoing investigation with that,” Breidenich told WWJ Newsradio 950. “We have not even sought a warrant at this point — we’re still investigating.”

There’s no phone listing for Belczak, and he couldn’t be reached for comment. Belczak, who was ordained in 1972, has been pastor of St. Thomas More Parish since 1984.

The archdiocese says it’s cooperating with Troy police in their investigation.

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