Orange County

Man gets 5 years for embezzling $134K from UNC’s Catholic parish

The Newman Center, at left, is located on Pittsboro Street on UNC’s campus in Chapel Hill. Pastor Justin Ross has said Newman Center ministries and outreaches were not affected by Brian Cansler’s embezzlement of over $134,000.
The Newman Center, at left, is located on Pittsboro Street on UNC’s campus in Chapel Hill. Pastor Justin Ross has said Newman Center ministries and outreaches were not affected by Brian Cansler’s embezzlement of over $134,000. tgrubb@heraldsun.com

A former administrator was sentenced Monday to nearly five years in federal prison for embezzling more than $134,000 from UNC’s Newman Center Catholic parish.

Brian Lee Cansler, 27, of Chapel Hill, pleaded guilty in May to three felonies: fraudulent use of a credit card, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Five additional federal charges were dismissed.

Brian Cansler
Brian Cansler

In his sentencing hearing Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles also ordered Cansler to serve five years of supervised probation after he is released and make restitution payments totaling nearly $171,525 to the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh and Hiscox Insurance Co.

Cansler could have been sentenced to a maximum of 42 years in prison and fined up to $1.5 million.

He will report to federal prison Jan. 16. Eagles recommended that he be imprisoned as close as possible to his family in Gaston County, according to court documents.

Court records show he still faces charges of embezzlement, financial card fraud and obtaining property by false pretenses in Orange County District Court. The state prosecutor for financial crimes plans to dismiss those charges, Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said.

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, according to court documents.

Chapel Hill police arrested him in 2016 after 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.

Newman Center Pastor Justin Ross has said Newman Center ministries and outreaches were not affected. The parish recovered the money through a diocesan insurance program, he said.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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