Church officials in New Jersey have confirmed that a Catholic priest who transferred more than $500,000 of a parish's funds into his account has been sentenced to seven years of prison.
In 2018, the Rev Douglas J. Haefner admitted that they took said funds during an audit. Diocese of Metuchen officials stated in a pre-written letter that Haefner blames the act on "Compulsive behavior" and that the priest intended to pay it back over time. Haefner, now 68, pleaded guilty in May.
It remains unclear how Haefner successfully transferred such funding into a private account without anyone noticing. Diocese officials report that they saw financial issues as early as 2016, but Haefner repeatedly requested to reschedule due to health issues. When the audit began in 2018, Haefner admitted to the theft and handed the case to local law enforcement.
Before his conviction, Haefner had overseen his church for 27 years. Haefner is scheduled to begin his sentence on August 19. However, he has applied for the state's Intensive Supervised Parole program, which would allow him to fulfill his sentence from home.
"This is not an easy day for anyone," Anthony P. Kearns, 3rd chancellor of the Diocese of Metuchen, told NJ.com. "While we are grateful this matter has come to its conclusion and justice has been served, there are no winners in the outcome of this unfortunate case."