June 4, 2014

Former Triangle Club Accountant Indicted, Alleged Theft of $180K

Thomas John Muza, 55, of Hightstown has been indicted on a charge of second degree theft. He is alleged to have embezzled more than $180,000 from Princeton University’s famed Triangle Club.

Mr. Muza served as accountant for the theatrical troupe from 1993 until his dismissal in May 2013, following the discovery of financial discrepancies and suspicious expenditures in the club’s financial records.

Mr. Muza was general manager of McCarter Theatre until he was suspended from his job last year on November 19. According to McCarter spokesperson Tim Shields (Town Topics December 4, 2013), Mr. Muza had worked for McCarter since 1990.

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the indictment by a state grand jury. It has been handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County. Mr. Muza will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.

Between January 2008 and February 2013, Mr. Muza is alleged to have used his position as accountant for the Triangle Club to steal the funds. He received an annual salary from the club of $4,000 and was a signatory on the club’s bank account.

An investigation revealed that he allegedly stole nearly $90,000 by writing Triangle Club checks directly to himself and cashing them or depositing them into his personal bank account. It is alleged that he used the money primarily to pay his living expenses, including credit card debt, mortgage payments, and utility bills. In addition, he allegedly wrote Triangle Club checks totaling more than $95,000 to make direct payments on three personal credit cards and to an unauthorized third party.

He was charged last year, on November 27. The matter had been referred to the Division of Criminal Justice Division by the law firm that serves as counsel for the Triangle Club, and which conducted an initial investigation of the thefts. The Princeton University Police Department also provided assistance.

Deputy Attorney General Mark Kurzawa and Detective Benjamin Kukis conducted the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial and Computer Crimes Bureau and presented the case to the state grand jury. Detective James Lanzi handled the investigation for the University Police Department.

“Rather than acting as an honest steward and ensuring that funds were strictly used to carry on the Triangle Club’s grand entertainment tradition, Mr. Muza allegedly abused the trust placed in him and shamelessly treated the club’s bank account like his own,” said Mr. Hoffman.

“White collar crime can have a devastating impact on its victims, whether they are individuals or organizations,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We intend to ensure that Muza pays for his alleged crime and pays back the money stolen from this nonprofit organization.”

The Princeton Triangle Club, which was founded in 1891, has had a number of famous members through the years, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, José Ferrer, and Brooke Shields.

The second-degree theft charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. The charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The press release announcing the indictment, noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime, and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the tip line or webpage will remain confidential.