Accountant scams Nova Scotia church out of over $250,000, police say

Nova Scotia RCMP have charged a woman with allegedly defrauding a church out of a quarter of a million dollars over 12 years while she was an accountant.

Police say they first received a public complaint about “financial irregularities” at a church in West Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia, in July 2019.

After the Archdiocese of Halifax and Yarmouth launched an internal investigation and provided its findings to police in late 2020, the RCMP said in a statement they determined the church accountant had committed suspected fraud.

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The RCMP say they gathered evidence as part of a “long-term investigation” that led to the charges announced on Friday.

Police say that between July 2008 and January 2020, 47-year-old Patricia Dixon allegedly committed fraud over $250,000 at the church, which the RCMP does not name.

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“The woman used her position as the parish accountant to access funds in the parish bank accounts for personal gain,” the RCMP statement read.

According to police, Dixon also “established recurring payments made to various establishments providing products and services in Nova Scotia.”

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According to police, Dixon, who is from the Halifax suburb of East Chezzetcook, faces the following charges:

  • three counts of fraud over $5,000
  • three counts of possession of property obtained by crime
  • identity information traffic
  • identity theft
  • falsification of books and documents
  • utter falsified documents

RCMP said she has been released and is scheduled to appear in court on May 3.

Church closed since 2018

Although police did not name the church, RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Marshall said it was located on Route 207. The only church on that road in the area is Saint Anselm Roman Catholic Church, which closed in November 2018.

According to the group of Friends of the Saint-Anselme Society, which started a petition that year to reopen the churchparishioners were told the closure was due to black mold and would be temporary.

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However, the company alleged that communication with the archdiocese was limited and they were never told when the church would reopen. The Archdiocese will announce later in June 2019 that the closure will be permanent.

In a statement to Global News on Friday, the society – which has since changed its name to St. Anselm Preservation Society – said its efforts were focused on reopening the church.

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“Our Society’s efforts have always been directed toward obtaining complete truth and transparency of the circumstances surrounding our church’s closure,” he said.

“We promote truth, transparency and accountability. Our Company is cooperating fully with this ongoing criminal investigation. We do not wish to embarrass or interfere in any way, so we have no further comments at this time.

While police only mentioned one church, the Archdiocese of Halifax and Yarmouth said in a statement that a former “lay employee” of Saint John of the Cross parish was charged with multiple counts of accusation of fraud, forgery and theft.

The alleged fraud began in St. Anselm’s and continued to Saint John of the Cross Parish in eastern Chezzetcook.

Reynold Gregor/Global News

He said the archdiocese carried out an investigation which revealed “financial irregularities”, which led to an independent audit in December 2020. A complaint was also filed with the Halifax Regional Police.

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Archdiocese spokeswoman Aurea Sadi said Saint Anselm’s was part of Saint John of the Cross parish until it closed in 2018 due to a “significant mold problem”.

“In 2020, the eight churches on the east coast became the parish of Saint-Jean-de-la-Croix,” she said in an email. “Since then, various other circumstances have led to the permanent closure of the St. Anselm’s Church building along with 4 other church buildings.”

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According to a letter sent to parishioners in Saint-Jean-de-la-Croix over the weekend, the closure of Saint-Anselme was due to “many factors,” including an $875,000 debt to the archdiocese and hundreds of thousands more in needed repairs.

“With these staggering amounts, the parish obviously had a structural financial problem,” he said.

“The subsequent discovery of theft and fraud, even if quite significant, does not impact the decision to close the church. The church will remain closed.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Jerry B. Hatch