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Priest-aid group hit with cease and desist

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jul 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-20 09:24:03-04

An organization raising money for the Okemos priest charged with embezzlement is now accused of breaking the law itself.

The State Attorney General's office issuing a cease and desist order to Opus Bono.

FOX 47 told you earlier this month the group was trying to raise $300,000 to pay for Father Jonathan Wehrle's legal defense.

Opus Bono is based in Lapeer County.

It bills itself as a non-profit that raises money for priests charged with crimes. Opus Bono is a Latin phrase meaning "work for the good of the priesthood."

It's mission statement is "to find solutions to the problems confronting priests in accordance with the authentic teaching of the church and of the Holy Father and his predecessors."

However, according to Attorney General Bill Schuette, the group was anything but holy.

The A.G. claims Opus Bono violated Michigan's Non-profit Corporations Act and Charitable Solicitations Act.

Schuette says President Joe Maher and Treasurer Peter Ferrara kept most of the money the group raised for themselves.

He says they transferred $1.7-million to themselves from 2014 to 2017.

They are accused of spending it on meals, car leases and travel.

Schuette also says the group raised more than $1-million a year through deceptive mailings, which included made-up quotes from priests to make their stories more sympathetic.

The attorney general says he will file a civil lawsuit if Opus Bono fails to resolve these allegations.