Arrest warrant issued for Catholic priest in church embezzlement

Associated Press/August 14, 2004

Paw Paw, Mich. -- An arrest warrant has been issued for a Roman Catholic priest who authorities suspect may have embezzled more than $240,000 from churches he served in Mattawan and Marcellus.

The Rev. Bogdon Werra faces a charge of embezzlement over $20,000, Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps told the Kalamazoo Gazette for a Saturday story. If convicted, Werra could face up to 10 years in prison.

It was not known when Werra would be arraigned in Van Buren County District Court, but Kaps said authorities were working with Werra's attorney to have the 49-year-old priest turn himself in soon.

A message seeking comment was left Saturday with Anthony Toweson, who was identified as Werra's attorney.

In a statement, the Diocese of Kalamazoo said its preliminary investigation "found evidence of financial irregularities in excess of $240,000" at St. John Bosco Parish in Mattawan and St. Margaret Mary Mission in Marcellus.

Kaps declined to discuss specifics of the case.

Werra, who has served in the local diocese since 1996, resigned last month around the same time an investigation was launched by Michigan State Police. His resignation was announced in a letter read to parishioners.

An earlier announcement of financial irregularities was made in another letter written by Bishop James Murray and read at church services early last month by the Rev. Michael Hazard, vicar general of the diocese.

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