The former accountant for the Triangle Club, the historic touring musical-comedy troupe at Princeton University, pleaded guilty today to embezzling $240,000 from the club, Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today.
Thomas John Muza, 56, of Hightstown, pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Timothy P. Lydon.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Muza be sentenced to three years in state prison. He must pay restitution of $240,000, including $200,000 that he must pay at sentencing. Muza’s entencing is scheduled for Sept. 4.
Muza was the accountant for the independent nonprofit theater troupe from 1993 until May 2013, when he was dismissed after discrepancies and suspicious expenditures were discovered in the troupe’s financial records. Muza also served for many years as general manager of McCarter Theatre, a not-for-profit professional theater company based on the campus of Princeton University. He was removed from that position as a result of the theft investigation.
Muza admitted in his plea that between January 2008 and February 2013, he used his position as accountant for the Triangle Club to steal approximately $240,000. Muza, who was paid an annual salary of $4,000, was a signatory on the club’s bank account.
The investigation revealed that he stole much of the money by writing Triangle Club checks directly to himself and cashing them or depositing them into his personal bank account. He used the money primarily to pay his living expenses, including credit card debt, mortgage payments and utility bills. In addition, Muza wrote Triangle Club checks to make direct payments on his personal credit cards.
“Instead of exhibiting the loyalty he should have felt for this celebrated musical-comedy troupe after serving as their accountant for 20 years, Muza exploited the trust he had garnered by stealing nearly a quarter of a million dollars,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This was a shameless betrayal.”
“The message here is that white-collar crime does not pay,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Muza will pay back every dollar he stole, serve a state prison sentence, and carry a felony record with him the rest of his life.”
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.
Muza was initially charged by the Division of Criminal Justice on Nov. 27, 2013, and was indicted on June 2, 2014. The case was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice by the law firm that serves as counsel for the Triangle Club, 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 & Computer Crimes Bureau and presented the case to the state grand jury. Detective James Lanzi handled the investigation for the Princeton University Police Department.
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.