Thursday, February 24, 2011

Priest jailed
Former Watertown priest ordered to jail

By Steve Sharp of the Daily Times staff
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:30 PM CST

JEFFERSON - A former priest at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Watertown was ordered Tuesday to serve seven years probation with nine months in jail after being found guilty in Jefferson County Circuit Court in December 2010 on one count each of theft in a business setting in excess of $10,000 and theft of more than $10,000 through false representation.

Thomas Marr, 66, now of Madison, will be permitted to serve the jail sentence in Dane County with Huber work release privileges. The first six months of the sentence will begin March 14 and after Marr completes the first three months in jail his time may revert to house arrest.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge J.R. Erwin on Tuesday accepted Marr's guilty pleas to the charges. The maximum penalty for each of Marr's counts was imprisonment not to exceed 10 years or a $10,000 fine, or both, relating to each count. Marr apologized Tuesday for the crimes.

A criminal complaint in the matter stated, between 2007 and 2009, Marr took money from various parish accounts. In addition, Marr also allegedly solicited funds from members of the parish, family members, other clergy and friends, representing that he intended to use the funds to assist parish members in financial distress. Marr promised he would repay these people quickly.

During this period, Marr provided the funds he obtained from the parish and others to assist Arthur Eith in recovering money Eith claimed was owed him from an overseas business transaction. Eith had financial dealings in Africa.

Marr and Eith's methods of funding became tangled up with numerous members of the church. It was believed by investigators that Marr borrowed amounts as small as $800 and as much as $47,000 from particular individuals.

Officials from the state's Department of Justice said, at the request of the Watertown police, they investigated allegations of misappropriated funds from St. Bernard's, where Marr had served. Church bills went unpaid for a period of time that is when an investigation began.

The problems with finances began to be noticed around November of 2008 when St. Bernard's administrative assistant Sue Nampel reported bills were unpaid. Thomas Levi, president of St. Bernard's Church at the time, indicated to investigators he had learned the church had approximately $100,000 to $125,000 in unpaid bills. St. Bernard's bookkeeper and business manager Alan Reinhard could not provide a good explanation for the unpaid bills and an IOU from Marr was subsequently discovered.

The books were reviewed by Thomas O'Connor, an independent CPA and member of the church, and discrepancies were found. That led to getting authorities involved.

Marr's charges were the overall result of investigations by the Watertown Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. Assistant Attorney General Donald V. Latorraca represented the state.

A civil case involving the congregation of St. Bernard against Eith was dismissed in July in Jefferson County and any criminal charges against Eith relating to the St. Bernard's matter are not reflected in information provided by the state.

Monsignor Dan Ganshert of St. Bernard's told the Daily Times in late 2010 that St. Bernard's had recovered about 60 percent of its lost funds through payments from its insurance company.

At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Erwin also ordered Marr to pay restitution to St. Bernard's Parish of Watertown in an amount to be determined by the court within the next month. She specified, as well, that Marr pay back various amounts of money he had taken from parishioners. The amounts ranged up to $27,500.

Marr must also pay a 10 percent restitution processing fee and Erwin set a prohibition against any fiduciary responsibility in Marr's future employment. He is to comply with a DNA sample provision and was directed to pay court costs totaling $210.

No comments: