No jail time in church theft case

| February 9, 2010

AMESBURY — Eight months after former Holy Family Parish maintenance worker David Pare was charged with stealing $51,296 from the church, he pleaded guilty yesterday and has been ordered to make full restitution or risk two years in jail.

On the day he was scheduled to stand before a jury trial, Pare and his lawyer, John Bjorlie, worked out with the district attorney a plea deal that resulted in a two-year sentence in the house of correction, suspended for 10 years as long as Pare continues to make payments to the church in accordance with an as-yet-undetermined restitution agreement. Per Judge Peter Doyle's ruling, Pare must also write a letter of apology to the parishioners of Holy Family Parish as requested by the church, amend his tax returns for 2008 and 2009 to include cash taken from the church safe, and wear an electronic monitoring device for a period of one year.

Pare, 49, is well known in town both for his longtime employment with the church and for his involvement in managing community events, such as Amesbury Days, the Woodsom Farm Festival and the Santa Parade. He was named the Amesbury Senior Center's Man of the Year in 2003 for his volunteer work. Pare is no longer involved in managing community events.

Pare had worked at Holy Family for 28 years before he was let go last spring for the thefts, which he admitted yesterday stretched over a period of time lasting from September 2008 to May 2009.

According to court documents, Holy Family Parish first noticed discrepancies in its tithing accounts in March 2008, when letters to parishioners confirming their total monetary gifts for the year were met with letters in response, stating the gift amounts had been higher than what the church was reporting.

The discrepancies prompted church leaders to contact police, who installed cameras in the parish office. As part of its own investigation, the church also installed a camera on-site.

On the evening of May 25, 2009, those cameras captured the image of Pare making three separate trips to the church safe, taking cash away. When confronted with the evidence by police, Pare admitted to stealing money from the safe.

What has been in dispute since that date has been the amount of money in question. Even while church leaders argued for lenience for Pare last summer, they have never wavered on the amount they feel Pare stole, but Pare said the amount was less than half the amount cited by the church.

In the end, Pare and the church were in agreement, and except for the electronic monitoring device, his sentence closely resembled the desired outcome laid out by the Archdiocese of Boston in a letter issued to the court last summer.

"Mr. David Pare has for 28 years served the parish very well, and we are truly saddened and disappointed over the choices he has made in the past year or so," wrote parish finance chairman James Bartley in a letter written last summer to accompany the church's impact statement. "We do not assume to know nor understand why he made these choices nor do we intend to completely excuse him for having made these choices. To that end, it has been agreed that it is not our desire for David to be incarcerated for his actions."

In the church's view, Pare serving prison time would "serve no purpose" for the members of Holy Family Parish and might in fact make it more difficult for Pare to make restitution to the church, Bartley wrote.

"It is our firm belief that it would be more beneficial for David to find a new job so that he could support his family and also do community service for his crime," Bartley wrote. "If incarcerated, he would not be able to support his family and would have no possibility of repaying any portion of his offense."

Though the sentence suspension period is for 10 years, Doyle said if Pare is able to repay the church in a period of five years, the case may be discharged early.

"If the restitution is paid, I'll terminate and discharge in five years," Doyle said.

Conversely, if the money is not paid in 10 years time, Doyle said he would extend the probationary period accordingly. Doyle provided in his disposition that Pare could direct his pension earned in 28 years of service to the church toward restitution, at the Archdiocese's discretion. Though Pare indicated he was currently employed, Doyle said that if Pare is not working, he needs to be performing community service.

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Category: Church Security

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