04/09/2013 12:12 EDT

Robert Couture, Windsor, Ontario Priest, Charged After $180,000 Missing From Church

Robert Couture, a Catholic priest in Windsor, Ontario, has been charged after allegedly stealing more than $180,000 from his own church.

The London Free Press is reporting that the alleged thefts took place over a 10-year span, only coming to light after an internal audit was conducted in 2010.

Couture was based at Ste. Anne's Parish in Tecumseh, a town just east of Windsor.

The Diocese of London, Ontario tipped off Ontario Provincial Police after finding irregularities in their own audit, according to the Windsor Star.

Police then found some $180,000 in 'irregularities'. Some of those questionable dealings included a series of unaccountable expenses and a bank account that had been previously unknown.

Couture, 49, is charged with one count of theft over $5,000.

Sun News reports he remains, at least technically, a priest. But he won't be allowed to dress as one or conduct religious ceremonies.

"He's on leave. He will not be returning to ministry in any parish in the diocese," Mark Adkinson told Sun News.

"This is going to come as a huge shock to the parishioners" Mark Adkinson, communications director for the Diocese of London, told CBC News. "That's one of the reasons why we felt that we needed to go to the police with this information, and actually go public with what we've done and the steps that we take to ensure that the money people give to their church is safe."

A two-year police investigation has ended with the arrest of a Windsor priest who allegedly spent almost a decade stealing more than $180,000 from his own church.

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