Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Anglican priest charged in credit-card fraud

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BRANDON -- An Anglican priest, who is the son of a Brandon bishop, is accused of charging more than $190,000 in personal expenses to a church credit card.

Noah James Bernard Njegovan, 30, appeared in Brandon court for the first time on Monday. His next court date is set for May 9.

He is charged with fraud over $5,000. The charge has not been proven in court.

Father Shane Bengry said members of the Anglican Diocese of Brandon have been notified of the accusations.

"We wanted to be as transparent as possible to our congregations... We tried to keep people abreast of what was going on," said Bengry.

Njegovan is the son of Anglican Bishop Jim Njegovan.

Noah Njegovan was executive archdeacon and assistant to his father at the time of the alleged offence.

The Anglican Church of Canada priest has had his licence to officiate suspended pending the outcome of his court case and currently can't preside over church functions.

Court documents allege the Anglican Diocese of Brandon was defrauded when a business card was used for personal affairs between March 12, 2010, and Sept. 12, 2012.

Bengry said an exact figure for the alleged fraud has yet to be calculated, but he said it's more than $190,000.

Another estimate puts the total around $198,000.

The money represents funds gathered by diocese members through their parishes to keep the diocese running, Bengry said.

The Anglican Diocese of Brandon stretches the length of Manitoba along its western boundary and contains more than 50 congregations.

Losing that money has caused the diocese to liquidate some of its assets to allow its work to continue.

"We're not a wealthy diocese," Bengry said.

An insurance claim has been filed for a significant portion of the loss, but "nowhere near" the full amount.

Bengry said financial irregularities came to light during a regular, albeit delayed, audit performed after an employee resigned in August.

The employee left of his own choosing and wasn't fired, Bengry said. He'd held his dual positions with the diocese for about three years.

It was only later, once the replacement employee completed the audit, that the financial irregularities were found and city police were notified in mid-January.

Noah Njegovan, who has a Rosenort address, was arrested in February and released pending Monday's court date.

Congregation members were initially notified of the financial irregularities on Dec. 2, Bengry said. A letter was read from the pulpit of each Anglican church within the diocese.

Members were later provided with an update on the investigation, which included the dollar estimate for the alleged fraud.

They were told of the charge against Noah Njegovan and that he was to appear in court.

Fraud allegations aren't exclusive to the church, Bengry noted.

"This happens in all sorts of organizations... people do the best they can and yet people do fail for a variety of reasons," he said.

However, in light of the allegations, the diocese has put new financial rules in place to prevent fraud. For example, in this particular case, it's alleged that online transfers allowed the alleged fraud to continue undetected.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 A4

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