Man accused of stealing from church faces more charges

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:06 PM

Joseph Finnigan, 73, was originally charged with embezzlement over $20,000, according to court officials. The additional charges were added during a preliminary examination on Tuesday in 58th District Court in Grand Haven.

Finnigan waived his right to a preliminary examination and was bound over for arraignment in Ottawa County Circuit Court on all three charges. The arraignment is set for 8 a.m. Feb. 25.

Finnigan was released from his job as a pastoral associate and deacon at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Grand Haven in early November 2012. Carl Apple, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, said at the time that the Grand Haven church had fired a staff member who had admitted to stealing money from the collection plates during the past year.

Finnigan had been working at the church for 11 years, but his job did not involve handling money, Apple said.

Apple said parishes have a system of checks and balances, and that’s how they discovered the missing money. The case was then turned over to local police.

Since that time, officials from St. Pat’s have been working with the diocese to change their security protocol, Apple said this week.

“The changes are for the better,” he said. “We felt these will prevent something like this from happening in the future.”

Apple said the diocese believes that good security measures are already in place.

“But it just takes something like this to show you where the holes are,” he said.

St. Pat's Parish Administrator John Strazanac said a forensic accountant was brought in to try to determine how much money was missing. He declined to say how much they found missing.

"We know it’s significant,” Strazanac said. “Accumulatively, it was a huge amount over a period of time, but it was a small amount of our resources.”

The church's collections come in three forms: direct deposit, personal checks and cash, Strazanac said. The missing money was cash, he noted.

Strazanac said the money from the weekly collections is used to operate the parish. The parish has been able to continue operations as normal because of the other forms of contributions, he said, and with the help of a loss protection fund.

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