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Flint man pleads guilty to embezzling church's charitable gaming funds, must repay nearly $37,000

Detroit, February 28, 2018 – A 79-year-old Flint man faces sentencing April 16 in 7th Circuit Court, Flint, after pleading guilty to embezzling charitable gaming funds and agreeing to repay $36,862 to St. Pius X Catholic Church and School, Flint, and affiliated groups.

Following a Michigan Gaming Control Board and Michigan Attorney General’s office investigation, David Lee Thiese Sr. was charged with a 10-year felony count of embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000. It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and carries a possible penalty of a $15,000 fine or three times the amount embezzled. Thiese Sr. entered a guilty plea on the 10-year felony count Feb. 22 at a pretrial conference in 67th District Court, Grand Blanc.

“We want to make sure charities receive the full measure of profits from charitable poker events they host,” said Richard Kalm, MGCB executive director.  “In this case, proper oversight and accounting practices weren’t followed, but MGCB investigators audited the event results, uncovered the fraud and worked closely with the Attorney General’s office to restore the missing funds to the charity.”

Thiese Sr. 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. He agreed to pay in restitution the funds investigators said he kept for personal use.

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.

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 Sr. is the 15th person associated with the three locations to plead guilty to charitable gaming crimes since 2014.

"The Michigan Gaming Control Board shall ensure the conduct of fair and honest gaming to protect the interests of the citizens of the State of Michigan."