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Former Maryland fishing association director admits embezzling over $100,000

The former executive director of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $100,000 from the nonprofit group over almost two years.

David J. Smith, 39, pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $100,000 from MSSA. He faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Prosecutors plan to ask for a five-year sentence with no time off for good behavior.

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Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs agreed to Smith’s request to delay his sentencing hearing until April 30 to give him time to pay $136,239.50 in restitution to his former employer.

The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association worked with state and federal advisory groups, tracked policy developments that affected recreational fishing and hosted fishing tournaments. Smith didn’t pay the winners of the fall 2017 fishing tournament, according to civil court records. The top winner of the tournament was supposed to receive $6,300.

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The association board of directors did not know what Smith was doing until the board president got a call in January 2018 that the association was going to be evicted from its Pasadena headquarters for failing to pay four months of rent.

In September, Smith was ordered in a civil lawsuit to pay $136,239.50 to the MSSA for using its credit card and checks to cover personal expenses like clothes, bar tabs, phone bills, airplane tickets, a Bahama vacation and a cruise. He also took out bank loans in MSSA’s name to cover the debts he incurred.

Smith improperly used his company credit card 150 times from late 2016 to January 2018, state prosecutors said. Smith, who is from York, Pennsylvania, became executive director of MSSA in 2009.

He allegedly refused to share passwords and usernames needed to access the group’s website, resulting in loss of memberships in 2018. Smith ran up $70,000 in debt to M&T Bank and further got in debt with several high-interest loans from places such as High Speed Capital in MSSA’s name.

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