Thomas J. Muza, a respected member of the Princeton performing arts community, has been charged with embezzling at least $100,000 from the bank account of the Triangle Club, the undergraduate musical comedy theater troupe for which he worked as an accountant.
Muza, shown at right, was paid an annual salary of $4,000 as accountant for the Triangle Club and was a signatory on the club’s bank account, the Attorney General’s office said. Prosecutors accused Muza of stealing more than $100,000 since the start of 2010 by writing Triangle Club checks directly to himself and depositing the checks into his personal bank account. Prosecutors said there also was at least one instance in which Muza allegedly wrote a Triangle Club check for $30,000 directly to his credit card company to pay off his personal credit card debt.
The state attorney general’s office has charged Muza with second-degree theft. He surrendered to detectives and was charged and released Wednesday, November 27. Muza is also managing director of McCarter Theater, which has a longtime affiliation with the Triangle Club. In his capacity with McCarter, Muza was also active with the New Jersey Theater Alliance.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said Muza, 55, a Hightstown resident, was an accountant for the independent nonprofit theater troupe from 1993 until November 19, when he was fired as a result of the theft investigation. The same day, he was suspended from his position at McCarter, which he had held since 1990.
Mark Segan, chairman of the Triangle Club’s board, said the executive committee hired forensic accountants after they began to suspect something was wrong with the books, and later contacted the authorities. The Division of Criminal Justice and the Princeton University police then investigated Muza.
“The members and trustees of the Triangle Club trusted Muza as a prominent, longstanding member of Princeton’s theater community, but he corruptly betrayed their trust,” Hoffman said. “When his personal finances got tight, Muza allegedly treated the club’s bank account like it was his own, stealing huge sums. We are continuing to investigate the extent of his alleged thefts.”
Segan said the club would be fine, but that the alleged thefts did hurt its finances. “On multiple levels this is shocking,” he said. “He was a very trusted employee, and in many respects a very capable man. It’s tragic in its way. And for us, what a betrayal.”
Segan said the financial picture before 2010 is “fuzzier,” but there was enough evidence after that date to go forward with investigating Muza.
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.
Muza is represented by defense attorney Robin Lord. “My client maintains his innocence of all charges,” Lord said.
The Princeton Triangle Club, which was founded in 1891, has had a number of famous members through the years, including novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, actors Jimmy Stewart, Jose Ferrer, and Brooke Shields, Clark Gesner, creator of the Charlie Brown musical, Wayne Rogers, of the MASH television show, and biographer A. Scott Berg.
The club filed IRS documents showing income of $455,728 in fiscal year 2010, mostly from its $1.5 million endowment. The club made $289,000 on its investments that year. In January and February, the troupe will go on a five-stop tour of Florida and Washington with its student-written and produced “Zero Gravitas” show.
Segan said the tour would continue as planned despite the alleged thefts. “It does materially harm the club. It doesn’t disable it, but it does harm it materially,” he said.