WAUKESHA — The former pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield was formally charged April 2 with the theft of $9,300 in church funds, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Waukesha County Circuit Court.
Fr. Leonard Van Vlaenderen, 51, of Cudahy is accused of obtaining repayment from the church for computer equipment that had been purchased as a gift in 2004 using his credit card, and in 2006 with a parishioner’s credit card but later returned for refunds, according to the criminal complaint. Fr. Van Vlaenderen allegedly then sought reimbursement from the parish afterwards.
One such receipt was for a purchase made on March 17, 2004 for $3,369.70 at the Apple Inc. store at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa. Fr. Van Vlaenderen then purportedly turned the receipt in for reimbursement the following month.
Two separate purchases in March of 2006 were made at Circuit City in Brookfield for a combined $4,505.51, by a parishioner on her personal credit card. According to the complaint, Fr. Van Vlaenderen then asked her to return the equipment, but later submitted a request for parish reimbursement.
In a third instance, the complaint alleges that Fr. Van Vlaenderen submitted another reimbursement request on Sept. 12, 2006 for the amount of $1,466.15. This reimbursement was based upon a receipt for a purchase of computer equipment at Office Depot in Brookfield on Aug. 30, 2006. They were purchased by the same parishioner who returned the items two days after the purchase. The complaint notes that she had no idea that Fr. Van Vlaenderen intended to submit the receipts for reimbursement.
In a written response to the charges, the Milwaukee Archdiocese stated, “Since the news of the actions of Fr. Leonard Van Vlaenderen surfaced in 2007, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has had two priorities – the health and well-being of St. John Vianney Parish and the health and well-being of Fr. Van Vlaenderen.
“Through the pastoral care of the priests who have served the parish since 2007, St. John Vianney remains a vibrant and active faith community,” it added. “We continue to ask for prayers for Fr. (Van Vlaenderen) and for all members of the St. John Vianney parish community.”
The archdiocese terms Fr. Van Vlaenderen’s status as that of a senior priest. He is not involved in active ministry.
Your Catholic Herald reported in December of 2007 the arrest of Fr. Van Vlaenderen Dec. 8 for operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of cocaine. He was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of possession of cocaine in 2008 and spent a year on probation.
Fr. Van Vlaenderen is charged with one count of felony theft and faces up to six years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000 if convicted. He is scheduled to appear in court April 21.