When their priest, Brian Lisowski, was caught with an alleged prostitute last summer, parishioners at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church began to suspect their pastor had been keeping secrets from them. They were right—he had a million of them.
About the time the priest resigned in July 2004, the Archdiocese of Chicago said it discovered Lisowski had systematically skimmed more than $1 million from the parish in his five years as pastor. The theft was discovered when collections went up dramatically after Lisowski left.
While corporate scandals at Enron and Tyco have made headlines in recent years, churches like St. Bede and other nonprofit entities also have been victims of embezzlement. They can be particularly vulnerable, experts say, because of the level of trust given to employees and volunteers and their lack of sophisticated financial controls and oversight.