Larry Belligiere said he and the rest of the Knight of Columbus were swindled out of nearly $80,000 by one of their own.
“You can only be betrayed by people you trust. And that’s the problem. We trusted him too much,” he said.
The Columbian Club is the business arm of the KOC affiliated with St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Port Richey.
Now they are reeling with the arrest of treasurer Crawford Bennett.
“It’s kind of beyond belief,” said member George Donahue.
The long time church member is charged with depositing 34 of the group’s checks into his personal account, usually about $2,000 at a time.
Investigators said Bennett eventually confessed to the priest.
They said he used some of the money to try and open a store front for his furniture business.
That store flooded last summer, destroying much of his stock.
But, bank records show Bennett also spent thousands on paying bills and eating at restaurants.
“I didn’t see him take an extravagant vacation. I don’t see him driving a brand new Cadillac. I don’t think he knew how to tell his wife or family that his business was failing,” said Belligiere.
A big chunk of the money was already promised to the church for renovations.
The rest was going to go to programs like feeding the homeless.
“Money that we were going to donate to literally help the most vulnerable people in society, the homeless people. We have homeless veterans, we have homeless children,” said Belligiere.
The church group admits they needed more oversight on their money.
All the elected board members have since been fired and policies were changed.
“It also points out all the things that we did wrong. Not having complete control like we feel we should have, said Donahue.
Meanwhile Bennett’s family is well known at the church.
His wife was a teacher, there sons alter boys. And one is now studying to priest.
A phone message left for Bennett was not returned.