Flint man sentenced to probation for embezzling of church’s charitable funds

DETROIT — David Lee Thiese Sr., a 79-year-old Flint man, was sentenced to 60 months of probation and $698 in fines and court costs on April 16 in 7th Circuit Court, Flint, for embezzling nearly $37,000 in charitable gaming funds from St. Pius X Catholic Church and School, in Flint Township, and affiliated groups, according to a press release.

Thiese previously agreed to repay $36,862 he admitted keeping for personal use from the church’s charitable gaming profits.

Following a Michigan Gaming Control Board (MCGB) and Michigan Attorney General’s office investigation, Thiese was charged last year with a felony count of embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000. Thiese pled guilty to the charge on Feb. 22 at a pretrial conference in 67th District Court, Grand Blanc. On April 16, Circuit Court Judge Judith Fullerton ordered Thiese to begin paying the restitution, fines, court costs and an additional $600 in probation supervision fees on May 16.

“It’s so important for charities to maintain proper oversight and accounting practices to prevent financial crime,” said Richard Kalm, MGCB executive director. “It’s unfortunate when MGCB investigators review event results and discover fraud, but we are here to help charities when a crime happens.”

Thiese deposited St. Pius X Church’s net profits from charitable gaming into an account he controlled. The charities earned nearly $60,000 in combined net profit from charitable gaming events, but he shared only $22,900 in proceeds with the church.

Between 2012 and 2014, the church, its school and other church-affiliated organizations held licenses for 28 Flint-area charity poker events. Thiese was listed as the chairperson for each event. 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 in Burton, Lucky’s Poker Room in Genesee Township and Pocket Aces in Flint Township.

The three so-called “poker rooms” are among several Michigan locations where charitable gaming was discontinued following investigations by the Michigan Attorney General’s office and the MGCB. Thiese is the 15th person associated with the three locations to plead guilty to charitable gaming crimes since 2014.

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