DA: Central Pa. priest embezzled $384,000 from church

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A parish priest has been charged with embezzling more than $384,000 from a central Pennsylvania church.

Father Caesar A. Belchez, 52, of New Freedom, is accused of taking the money between 2006 and 2011 while he was pastor at Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Bonneauville, according to Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner.

Belchez is accused of embezzling nearly $312,000 in cash and making an additional $72,766 in unauthorized purchases with credit cards issued to the parish, Wagner said.

Belchez was charged Thursday with two counts of theft and one count of access device fraud, each a third-degree felony. He faces up to 21 years in prison and maximum fines of $45,000 if convicted, Wagner said.

He was released on $50,000 unsecured bail and required to surrender his passport. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for November 21.

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