Former priest, secretary charged with embezzling over 100k from church

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OWOSSO (WJRT) - (03/20/17) - A former church priest and secretary have been arrested after Michigan State Police say they embezzled over $100,000 from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Owosso.

Seventy-year-old David Fisher was arrested on March 11 in Grand Forks, ND, where he lives. Nancy DeFrenn was arraigned Friday, March 17 in Shiawassee County Court and is out on bond.

"Nobody can believe it," said parishioner Milan Staesa.

Staesa's been a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church since he was a little kid. He had no idea this was going on while Fisher served as the church's priest.

"He was real nice to people; he was here 23 years," he said.

During six of those years, Michigan State Police said that Fisher and Defrenn embezzled more than $100,000.

"We've conducted a thorough investigation and documented that there was in fact money spent inappropriately by the priest and also by the secretary," said Det. Mark Pendergraff, of the Michigan State Police.

The investigation was launched after Fisher retired in June 2015 and an internal audit was conducted by the diocese of Lansing. The numbers from that audit did not add up.

"It's unbelievable, you know, that he could do that," said parishioner Iona Remenec.

Remenec has been a part of St. Joseph for 60 years and never in a million years did she think something like this would happen. She described Fisher as a great priest.

"Friendly, give you a hug when you left church. He just never seemed the type," she said.

Fisher is awaiting an extradition hearing back to Michigan. That is set for March 31. He could face up to 20 years behind bars.

DeFrenn could face up to 10 years.

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