Ottawa Priest Pleads Guilty to Gambling Church Money
A Catholic priest has admitted that he stole money from Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament church and gambled it away. At a preliminary hearing earlier this week Father Joseph LeClair pleaded guilty to fraud and theft and said that he has a gambling problem.
Over the last five years LeClair has stolen $130,000 of church money. He took $16,000 from the collection plate and thousands of dollars in fees from marriage preparation courses to pay debts he had built up at Casino Lac Leamy.
LeClair stepped down from his position in the church after media reports of his gambling problem in 2011. In July 2012 he was charged with fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000.
Strangely, a number of parishioners appeared in court to support LeClair, one woman was seen wiping tears from her eyes throughout the proceedings.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has said that the Ottawa Archdiocese will support LeClair in his recovery. In a statement Prendergast wrote, “With Fr. LeClair, we now look to the future, understanding that the court’s decision on sentencing will be part of any future plan. In a courageous and very public way, Fr. LeClair admitted to the addictions which were harmful to him personally and to his pastoral ministry.”