By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 7:25:07 EDT PM http://www.lfpress.com/2013/04/09/windsor-catholic-priest-rev-robert-couture-charged-with-theft
Rev. Robert Couture
A former London Catholic priest is accused of pilfering $180,000 from his Windsor-area parish.
Essex OPP charged Rev. Robert Couture, who served at St. Patrick’s and Blessed Sacrament churches in London from 1990-2002, with one count of theft over $5,000 after the London diocese contacted police in 2011 to report missing money.
The diocese completed an audit into the finances of Ste. Anne’s Parish in Tecumseh in 2010 after Couture, who had been at the church since 2002, took a personal leave of absence. It’s diocese policy to conduct an audit anytime a priest leaves a church.
But red flags were raised after auditors found questionable expenses charged to the parish, along with an unknown bank account in the church’s name.
“We found a lot of expenses that were outside the norm,” said diocese spokesperson Mark Adkinson.
That prompted officials to bring in an independent forensic auditor, leading to the discovery that least $169,000 was missing — money that would been used to help the disadvantaged, fund programs and pay staff.
Police charged Couture, 49, with one count of theft over $5,000.
More than $180,000 went missing from the parish between 2002 and 2010, police said.
Though Ste. Anne’s filed an insurance claim and recovered $169,000, the scandal rocked the 154-year-old parish of 2,800 families.
Couture is also a former chair for French Catholic school board.
While still technically a Catholic priest, Couture’s not allowed to dress as a priest or perform religious duties, Adkinson said.
Couture is to appear in court May 14.