FLINT TWP. — David Lee Thiese Sr., 78, of Flint, was arraigned Aug. 3 in 67th District Court in Grand Blanc for allegedly embezzling more than $38,000 in charitable gaming funds from St. Pius X Catholic Church and School, 3139 Hogarth Ave., and affiliated groups, according to a press release. Charges were filed following a joint investigation by the Michigan Gaming Control Board and the Michigan Attorney General’s office.
Thiese Sr. was charged with one 10-year felony count of embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000. He also faces three 10-year felony counts of embezzlement of $1,000 to $20,000 from a nonprofit or charitable organization. Each count also carries a possible penalty of $15,000 or three times the amount embezzled.
“The charitable organizations allegedly did not maintain proper oversight and accounting of their funds,” said Richard Kalm, executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board. “It’s important for charities to have more than one person oversee and control accounts and to conduct periodic audits. By taking these steps, charities can reduce the chance of fraud.”
Thiese Sr. was released on $20,000 bond set at the arraignment by Judge Christopher R. Odette. He was scheduled for an Aug. 17 probable cause conference at the court. A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Theise Sr. allegedly deposited St. Pius X Church’s net profits from charity gaming into an account he controlled. Investigators believe the charities earned nearly $60,000 combined net profit. However, Theise Sr. allegedly shared with the charities only $22,900 in proceeds from all of the events.
Thiese Sr. was listed as the event chairperson for 28 charitable poker events held in the Flint area between 2012 and 2014. The events were licensed as benefits for the church, its school and other church-affiliated organizations. Michigan law requires the entire net proceeds of a charitable gaming event be devoted exclusively to the charity’s purposes.
The charges followed an MGCB investigation of events held at the former Gloria’s Poker Palace, Lucky’s Poker Room and Pocket Aces. Investigators allege Thiese Sr. illegally kept the money for personal use.
The three so-called “poker rooms” are among several Michigan locations where charitable gaming was discontinued following investigations. Since 2014, 14 people associated with Gloria’s, Lucky’s and Pocket Aces have pled guilty to gaming crimes following investigations by the Michigan Attorney General’s office and the MGCB.
In 2016, Michigan charities were awarded more than $106,000 in restitution for stolen millionaire party profits.