Hand in Collection Plate | This Week in Nonprofit Fraud

Reposted from the This Week in Nonprofit Fraud Blog – January 20, 2014

A Hand in the Collection Plate

Father Joseph LeClair

Photo courtesy of Chris Mikula, the Ottawa Citizen

January 20, 2014: Father Joseph LeClair pled guilty to fraud and theft charges for stealing as much as $400,000 from the Blessed Sacrament Church. The theft was discovered after the Archdiocese of Ottawa hired an auditor to look into financial irregularities at the church. LeClair had written checks to himself from the church’s accounts, disguised as legitimate stipends, which he used to pay down personal gambling debts. In addition, he stole money paid by parishioners for marriage preparation classes, which he demanded that couples pay in cash. As one last blow, he stole thousands of dollars in collection plate money, which were regularly stored in his office closet. Parishioners filled the courtroom to support Father LeClair, testifying that he regularly went “above and beyond” the call of duty in his ministry. A psychological evaluation submitted to the court diagnosed LeClair as a pathological gambler.

See more on this case at the Ottawa Citizen

Lesson Learned

  • Fraud is a crime that takes advantage of trust; cases like this are depressingly common, where a highly trusted and loved individual uses that trust to enrich themselves.
  • LeClair’s thefts were not well hidden and could easily have been detected by appropriate monitoring of accounting activity.

Raffa Forensic Practice Tips:

  • Trust is not an internal control!
  • Everyone is capable of committing fraud. No one should be above suspicion of fraud.
  • Does your organization have internal controls which eliminate a requirement for trust?


The Raffa Forensic Accounting Services Practice offers a wide variety of fraud prevention and detection services including Fraud Risk Assessments, Background and Workplace Investigations, Fraud and Internal Investigations, Transactional Due Diligence Investigations, Anti-Fraud Consulting and Training, and Computer Forensic Analysis.

For more information on the Raffa Forensic Accounting Services Practice please visit us at www.raffa.com/ProfessionalServices/Forensic/ and the Nonprofit Fraud Prevention Institute at www.raffa.com/Fraud.

You can also contact the following Raffa professionals with any questions or if your organization needs assistance in fraud prevention:

Lawrence J. Hoffman, CPA/CFF, CVA, CFE, Senior Partner:  Lhoffman@raffa.com

Leslie C. Kirsch, CFE, Manager:  Lkirsch@raffa.com

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