Ex-country club member pleads no contest to looting nearly $700K from caddie scholarship trust
A former member of the elite Oakland Hills Country Club pleaded no contest Thursday to charges of looting nearly $700,000 from the club's caddie scholarship fund.
Craig Maass, 62 and a former caddie himself, entered the plea during a pre-trial hearing held via Zoom before Oakland County Circuit Judge Yasmine Yoles.
A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for the purposes of sentencing. Yoles pointed out that Maass' plea is not part of a plea bargain.
Maass was charged with taking funds between November 2018 and July 2019 from the college fund he was overseeing and putting them into his personal business accounts. He is accused of writing six separate checks, each over $100,000, to his consulting firm.
A routine forensic audit conducted by the scholarship board found that Maass had written the checks, totaling $697,000, from the fund. He was arrested in January 2020 and jailed until April 2020, when he was released as a result of the spread of COVID-19.
Maass, a former trustee of the club's caddie college scholarship fund, blamed the troubles in part on an alcohol addiction and told The Detroit News that he was so "out of control" he doesn't even recall what he spent the money on.
Sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 30.
Attorney Clarence Dass, Maass' lawyer, told The News on Thursday following the hearing that his client has taken responsibility for his actions.
"He has always from the beginning of the allegations accepted responsibility for this," said Dass. "He was always going to plead no contest. It was not a matter of guilt or not guilty for him. It was a matter of the restitution that he owed back to Oakland Hills. He has always been willing to make things right for Oakland Hills."
Maass, according to Dass, tried to meet with Oakland Hills officials "to give them the money back" but officials at the club soon refused to talk with Maass and reported the missing money to authorities. A criminal investigation by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office was started, said Dass, leading to Maass being charged with six counts of embezzlement over $100,000.
Efforts to reach former Oakland Hills President Tom Stacy and the club's attorney Michael Costello were unsuccessful this week. Club employees declined comment, including Chief Operating Officer Christine Pooler, who said she would pass on a request from The News to "someone who could respond." The club did not respond further as of Thursday afternoon.
Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Robert Novy told Yoles Thursday that he will ask for prison time for Maass when he is sentenced next month.
While embezzlement of $100,000 is a felony that can carry a 20-year prison penalty, because of Maass' personal history, Dass contends, sentencing guidelines fall between 30 and 50 months in prison.
Dass confirmed to The News his client was served with divorce papers while in jail and "he gave her everything, including the house." After being released from jail, Maass had no home, no income and said he lived out of his car until he began house-sitting for a friend.
Dass said he feels his client, because of his lack of criminal activity or violent behavior, deserves additional consideration, and he'll request that Yoles issue a sentence that keeps his client out of prison.
"My hope is that the judge will consider not incarcerating him especially since he's not had a bond violation and is willing to make things right," Dass added.
Maass contests the amount he's accused of taking, saying he was "owed money from the club" for expenses in setting up fundraising activities and also his own membership fees.
Lt. Sam Marzban, an investigator for the sheriff’s office, said while Maass did not consent to be interviewed by police, the sheriff's office made a careful accounting of acceptable expenses.
Founded in 1916, the Oakland Hills Country Club, off West Maple Road, features two 18-hole courses coveted by golfers internationally. The club has hosted many major tournaments, including six U.S. Opens, PGA Championships and the Ryder Cup.
The club has about 550 members, at least some of whom pay a $72,000 initiation fee, $8,400-plus per year in fees and dues, and have food and beverage minimum charges of up to another $1,000 per year, according to membership documents.