Brandon priest pleads guilty to theft from diocese

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Noah Njegovan, a priest who once served as executive archdeacon of the diocese of Brandon, has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $190,000 from the diocese.

Njegovan entered the guilty plea on Monday, December 11, according to a statement released by the diocese the same day. A sentencing hearing, including submissions from the Crown and defence lawyers, is scheduled for January 9, but it’s not known whether the judge will announce the sentence on that date or later, the diocese said.

The theft charge, laid in 2015, stems from Njegovan’s use of a corporate credit card while he was executive archdeacon between January 2010 and August 2012. He used the credit card 1,003 times during that period, racking up $192,000 in bills for unauthorized private purchases, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

Njegovan also served at the time as assistant to his father, then-bishop of Brandon James Njegovan.

A civil suit filed by the diocese against Njegovan in 2014 alleged that Njegovan used the card, among other things, for cash advances of $90,000, $47,000 for meals and bar bills, $13,000 for hotels, $6,800 for three trips to Las Vegas and $31,000 for a range of purchases, including a Netflix subscription and massages.

The diocese did not detect these charges at first because Njegovan paid off the card by making withdrawals from a diocese savings account using online banking, Crown attorney Marnie Evans told the court. He also hid credit card statements and lied to church auditors, telling them the withdrawals from the savings account were for something else, she said.

He was also charged with fraud, but this charge has been stayed by the Crown.

The statement said Njegovan has since repaid the diocese the full $192,000, $75,000 of which will pay for the diocese’s insurance coverage.

With Njegovan’s guilty plea and repayment, the diocese is withdrawing the lawsuit, William G. Cliff, bishop of the diocese of Brandon, told the Anglican Journal in an e-mail.

“Our hope now is for healing and reconciliation both for the diocese and the Njegovan family, who are part of the diocese,” he said.

“We’re very pleased that this is coming to a close,” Cliff told the Winnipeg Free Press. “We’re hopeful that kind of redemption can spill over for everybody and that we can move on—both the diocese and the Njegovan family—and enjoy new relationships with everybody.”

In its civil suit, the diocese of Brandon claimed damages of $250,000 for fraud, breach of trust, breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. The suit also claimed punitive and exemplary damages totalling $100,000.

Njegovan has relinquished his exercise of ordained ministry this month, the diocese said.

“While until now, Noah has been listed as ‘on leave’ from the Diocese of Brandon, the effect of this relinquishment is that he will no longer function or be listed as a priest,” the statement reads.

 

 

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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