Ex-country club trustee gets 51 months to 20 years in prison for looting scholarship fund

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An Oakland County Circuit judge on Monday called the actions of a former member of an elite country club "deplorable" before sentencing him to 51 months to 20 years in prison for embezzling more than $600,000 from the club's caddie scholarship fund. 

Craig A. Maass, 62, who supervised the Oakland Hills Country Club fund created to send deserving caddies to college, entered a no contest plea in the case last month in hopes of avoiding prison time because of an otherwise clean record and poor health.

His attorney, Clarence Dass had argued any incarceration for Maass could amount to a death sentence due to heart problems, diabetes, and high sensitivity to the COVID-19 virus.

Craig Maass looks on while being interviewed on June 28, 2021 at The Dass Law Firm in Bloomfield Hills.

In an emotional plea, Maass told Judge Yasmine Poles he was "very remorseful" for his actions which he said cost him his marriage, family, house, job, a company he owned and his reputation.

"I can’t take it back. I was wrong. I was in a downward spiral and I lost my family," Maass said. "It will never happen again."

Like opposing attorneys in her courtroom, Poles said the case was sad but agreed with assistant prosecutor Rob Novy’s view that poor health or COVID-19 concerns didn’t appear to deter Maass from visiting casinos throughout the pandemic and having  “bought in” $225,400 in table games in 153 transactions between June 2018 to July 2019.

"You were held in a position of trust and given access to funds intended to help children," Poles told Maass, after hearing Maass tell of his personal loss. “That is the most deplorable aspect of the whole thing … to take fund that were donated to give opportunities to go to college." 

During a 2020 audit, it was discovered Maass, a longtime member whose parents had been well-known club members for decades, had written checks to his company and that of a friend’s company from the fund. Novy noted a substantial portion of the embezzlement occurred while Maass was on probation for a drunken driving conviction out of Bloomfield Hills' 48th District Court. 

In all, 123 checks totaling $633,749 were written between June 20, 2018, through July 23, 2019.

In a prior interview with The News, Maass expressed remorse for his actions which he described as occurring during a downward spiral of alcoholism and distress over his failing marriage. He argued that no caddie was ever denied a scholarship because of his actions and that the scholarship trust was always solid and well-funded.

Paul Zimmerman, an Oakland Hills Club scholarship fund trustee and secretary, told Poles the club’s program — funded by member’s donations — had provided $1.5 million in scholarship aid to caddies since its inception in 1977, $150,000 of which in the past year. The incident, he said, had tarnished the program’s reputation.

Two deputies escorted Maass, his head bowed and hands cuffed behind him, from the courtroom as several of his friends looked on.

Dass said Maass would likely serve less than the 51-month minimum and receive credit for three months served earlier this year in the Oakland County Jail when he was unable to post bail.

During his incarceration, Maass was identified as being “high risk for COVID-19 due to his age and health conditions” Dass said, and he was released pending sentencing.

Maass, his attorney said, has been diagnosed as having heart disease and hyperlipidemia, including a numbness in his feet. He also is at a higher risk for a heart attack due to a heart murmur and hypertension, Dass said, citing medical reports.

A condition of future parole would be restitution of more than $400,000, Dass said, noting the embezzlement amount was reduced by expenses Maass claimed he was owed by the club for his services at several fundraisers, including arranging dinner speakers ranging from well-known golf names to President George W. Bush. His share of the sale of his home has also gone towards repayment.

“He was a victim of vice and addiction,” Dass said. “And it cost him everything.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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