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Fr. Joe LeClair, a popular Ottawa priest who has been charged with theft, fraud and breach of trust, had his first court appearance postponed until Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Ottawa

Gambling Ottawa priest's court appearance put off to Oct. 17

By 
  • September 6, 2012

OTTAWA - Fr. Joe LeClair, a popular Ottawa priest who has been charged with theft, fraud and breach of trust, had his first court appearance postponed until Oct. 17 after one of his lawyers asked for more time to examine the evidence.

Defense counsel had only received disclosure of evidence in the previous week and also wished for pre-trial consultations with the crown, the lawyer told the court on Sept. 5. LeClair was not present.

LeClair was charged July 3 with one count each of theft, fraud, criminal breach of trust and laundering the proceeds of crime after a lengthy Ottawa Police Organized Fraud investigation that was launched more than a year ago following a complaint from the archdiocese of Ottawa about missing funds from Ottawa's Blessed Sacrament parish.

Over a review period from January 2006 to May 2011, police found $240,000 in parish cheques were misappropriated and $160,000 in cash that was not accounted for.

LeClair, who has served in the Ottawa archdiocese for 25 years, was largely credited with the revival of Blessed Sacrament parish in the Glebe neighbourhood. In the spring of 2011, he admitted to a gambling addiction after the Ottawa Citizen ran a series of articles revealing huge credit card debts and cash advances. The priest denied ever misusing parish funds to feed his gambling habit.

The archdiocese of Ottawa asked for a forensic audit around the same time the newspaper began its reports. After the audit was completed, the archdiocese filed the complaint.

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