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DeWitt priest charged with embezzlement for allegedly stealing over $800K from 3 other priests

403101 05: The collar of a priest is seen at St. Adalbert Catholic Church March 29, 2002 in Chicago, IL. Good Friday's "Way of the Cross" services is celebrated by Roman Catholics all over the world.
Posted at 9:51 AM, Dec 02, 2022

A former director of the Lansing Diocese's St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt has been accused of embezzling $830,000 from three fellow priests and using that money to fund his charitable foundation FaithFirst, formerly known as Rosenberg Family Corporation.

Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that Father David Rosenberg is being charged with several felonies:

1. Three counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $100,000+
2. One count of uttering and publishing
3. One count of larceny over $20,000
4. One count of perjury
5. One count of false pretenses over $100,000

"Rosenberg accumulated wealth for FaithFirst in part by embezzling money from the elderly priests living at the Retreat Center," Nessel's statement read.

Joanne McCartin said one of those priests was her late brother Father Ben Werner, who lived in an apartment at the center for seven years after his retirement.

"Father Rosenberg came, I think, three years before my brother got sick. I don't think he knew my brother all that well, but somehow he was able to convince my brother to sign these papers and sign the will, and so on, to him," McCartin said. "But, that was after my brother had this very severe stroke, so his cognitive abilities weren't the best."

McCartin said her brother's stroke was in January 2018, but that Rosenberg didn't call her until a month later.

"Then he told me—I think in a subsequent call—that he was the executor, healthcare proxy, power of attorney all of those things that I had been in a previous will," McCartin said, "and that my brother didn't want me there."

She said she finally visited her brother around Easter about two months after his stroke.

"In the interim, he had shifted all these accounts over under his direction," McCartin said. "So, he had total control over my brother's finances and his healthcare, and so on."

McCartin didn't ask her brother about the changes, she said, because she was afraid.

"David Rosenberg said, 'We don't want to get your brother agitated, do we?'" McCartin said. "I once asked my brother if he had a will, and he told me, 'Oh yeah, it's somewhere in a desk drawer.' But I never saw any will, because David Rosenberg told me, 'Everything's sealed.' Which, I don't think is quite accurate, but, he told me that."

Her brother passed away on Christmas in 2018.

"Some friends suggested, from what I told them, 'Why don't you try and send things to the Attorney General's Office?'" McCartin said. "I thought, 'Well, I'll just take the chance.'"

Rosenberg was arraigned Thursday in the 65-A District Court in Clinton County.

Though he retired last year, the Lansing Catholic Diocese may still be affected.

"We will be, over the next couple days, discussing and deciding whether there's anything further from the Diocesan end that we need to do—anything that we missed over the past few years," general counsel for the Diocese of Lansing Will Bloomfield said.

Despite the allegations, McCartin said she doesn't "think Rosenberg is an evil person."

"I don't despise him," McCartin said. "But, I think it's unfortunate that he chose to take advantage of elderly, sick people."

A probable cause conference is scheduled for Dec. 15 and a preliminary examination for Dec. 22.

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