Orange County

Ex-employee pleads guilty to embezzling from UNC’s Newman Center

A former administrator pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to charges that he embezzled more than $134,000 while working for UNC’s Newman Center Catholic parish.

The agreement allowed Brian Lee Cansler, 26, of Chapel Hill, to plead guilty to three felonies: fraudulent use of a credit card, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Five additional federal charges were dismissed.

Cansler will remain free on bond until a September sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court. He could face a maximum of 42 years in prison, $1.5 million in fines and several years of probation, according to the agreement.

Court records show he still faces charges of embezzlement and obtaining property by false pretenses in Orange County District Court. A hearing is set for May 26.

Cansler’s position as the parish and campus director of finance and administration gave him full control over the Newman Catholic Student Center’s finances, a court document states.

Chapel Hill police arrested him last year following two regular audits that showed parish money was missing.

Cansler was accused of charging $126,272.92 in personal expenses to parish credit cards and cashing checks written from the parish’s bank account worth $8,000.

Prosecutors also allege he forged the signature of a Catholic priest assigned to the parish on both checks.

No Newman Center ministry or outreach was affected, Newman Center Pastor Justin Ross said. The parish recovered the money through a diocesan insurance program, he said.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb