GRAND HAVEN, Mich-
A former employee who served as a long time deacon at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Grand Haven is facing a felony charge for stealing thousands of dollars in cash from church collection plates.
Joseph Talmadge Finnigan, 73, from Grand Haven was arraigned Monday in 58th District Court on one count of embezzlement of at least $20,000, according to court records.
His next court date is November 20th for a preliminary hearing .
Carl Apple, spokesman of Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, said the employee admitted to taking the cash and was fired last week. The situation was reported to Grand Haven Public Safety. There is currently a police investigation going on, as well as an internal one.
“Individual parishes make it very difficult to embezzle money, several systems are put into place and it was through those systems that they discovered something wasn’t right,” said Apple.
According to court records, the embezzlement was believed to have been going on since 2009 until this month.
Finnigan had served as a deacon at St. Patrick’s for 11 years and conducted weddings and funerals. He did not however handle the church’s money.
Court records show a past charge for larceny back in 2003 and a charge in 1992 that was dismissed.
Church members were just learning of the situation Tuesday evening .
“It’s just sad for everyone involved,” said one member who did not want her name published.
Fr. Bill Langlois explained the situation at Mass over the weekend to church members in the following statement:
Dear St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parishioners, sadly, I must inform you that a St. Patrick-St. Anthony employee has admitted to taking cash from the weekend offertory collection; it appears to have taken place over an extended period of time. The worker was immediately terminated. A subsequent review of financial records has been handed over to the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety as required by diocesan policy.
As in any parish, we have protocols in place to prevent thefts, or at least make them difficult. No set of protocols is foolproof; however we are working with the Diocese of Grand Rapids to review and enhance these procedures.