Port parish to recover $510,000 stolen in scam

By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

St. John XXIII Parish is in the process of recovering another $128,370 of the $510,000 it was scammed out of earlier this year, a parish official said Tuesday. 

That brings the total amount recovered from the scam to $271,532, or about 53% of the money that was stolen, Pastoral Coordinator Bill Henkle said.

When combined with payments from Catholic Mutual Insurance, the parish will recover all the funds that were stolen, Henkle said.

“From thinking we were out $510,000 to being fully recovered, it’s a tremendous blessing to be sure,” he said. “We are all thrilled and very thankful that what was a huge dark cloud hovering over us has been lifted.” 

The parish was shocked this spring to learn that a $510,000 payment intended for CG Schmidt, the general contractor for the St. John XXIII School expansion project, had been stolen.

According to authorities, in late February the parish received a letter purportedly from CG Schmidt that said the firm was changing banks and provided different account numbers for payments. A few days later, a woman called the parish claiming to be CG Schmidt’s accountant asking whether the letter had been received.

  When the contractor’s next bill came due on March 4, parish officials went ahead with the transfer of funds only to be notified later that the transaction was fraudulent and CG Schmidt never received the money.

The Port Washington police department worked with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the Internal Revenue Service on the case.

Last month, parish officials announced that $143,166 had been recovered and Catholic Mutual had paid $164,800. The insurance company covered all but $1,000 — the amount of the deductible — so the church could make its payment to CG Schmidt, which had extended its payment deadline to Aug. 1.

“We were able to pay our contractor by Aug. 1 without any added penalties,” Henkle said, adding that when the parish receives the additional $128,000 in recovered funds it will reimburse the insurance company that amount.

Henkle said authorities have told the parish they do not believe they will be able to recover any more of the money that was stolen.

They have also not been able to identify who the thieves are, he said.

But, Henkle said, the parish is grateful for what it has received and the efforts of the authorities.

“We were thrilled with just the first (amount) recovered, not to mention a second or third amount,” he said. “They (the IRS and other agencies) were awesome. They have been very good about keeping us up to date. They didn’t give us false hopes. It really helped us make our way through this ordeal.

“We are truly blessed. The stories don’t normally end like this. So often, these are a complete loss.”

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