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Lawsuit: Priest spent $45K on a covered swimming pool in a luxury estate

MASON, Mich. – A Catholic priest accused of embezzling more than $5 million of his central Michigan church spent about $100,000 on an indoor swimming pool and stained glass windows are six bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, home, according to a lawsuit want to recoup some of the money.

In addition to the $45,000 pool and nearly $ 55,000 in stained glass windows, the Rev. Jonathan Wehrle raised more than $134,000 on the landscape, on his 10-acre (4-hectare) estate in Williamston, and other properties, according to the lawsuit filed by Princeton Excess and Surplus Lines Insurance Corporation, which insures the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

Wehrle faces six counts of embezzling $100,000 or more of St. Martha’s Church in Okemos, just east of Lansing and approximately 70 miles west of Detroit. The plaintiffs claim that Wehrle spent the money himself, including the building and maintaining of the estate.

The house, which is 10 fireplaces and three barns, were valued at $1.28 million in 2012, when the construction was only halfway completed, according to court records.

The police said bills for work on the property matched controls written from St. Martha.

Wehrle’s attorney, Lawrence Nolan, said the parish priest had the family money and an agreement with a bishop, now deceased, to use parish funds for a private residence.

Assistant prosecutor Andrew Stevens has said Wehrle, who founded St. Martha in 1988, had “maintained a fairly autonomous control” for nearly 30 years.

Princeton Excess also sued Wehrle this month after learning he was not from the payment of property taxes and his homeowner’s insurance has expired, according to the lawyer, Randy Restaurant.

Wehrle, the estate was placed in receivership after a judge approved the insurer, at the request of Wednesday, the Lansing State Journal reported . The insurer says it paid approximately $2.5 million to the diocese so far and wants the protection of assets to cover those losses.

“While this suit is pending, no one wants to see the goods lost or damaged before the goods may be confiscated,” said Restaurant.

He said that the receiver will ensure that the taxes are paid and that the property is well maintained and insured.

A spokesman for the diocese, Michael Diebold, declined to comment on the latest lawsuit.

“But I can assure you that the money will be restored to the parish,” Diebold said. “The assertion that this parish assets.”

Wehrle’s is scheduled to be tried in April, but an assistant prosecutor said that the trial will probably not take place until the summer.

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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