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Crime

Former Arnold lacrosse club president pleads guilty to theft scheme, tax charges

The former president of a youth lacrosse club in Arnold was ordered by an Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge Wednesday to spend a weekend in jail before serving one year of house arrest.

Ricky Schwartzberg, 53, apologized in court and said he had “lost everything” in the months since Anne Arundel County Police filed embezzlement and theft charges, alleging he used $171,000 of Peninsula Lacrosse Club’s funds for personal expenses. Schwartzberg, who has divested from the business he founded in 2013 with lacrosse colleagues, pleaded guilty to a theft scheme charge as well as another offense for failing to file a tax return in 2021, resolving two criminal cases stemming from his financial dealings.

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In charging papers filed in January, police said the Stevensville resident had unlawfully accessed the lacrosse club’s funds by setting up multiple PayPal accounts that drew from the club’s bank account and used the money for vacations and other personal expenses.

Defense attorney Peter O’Neill said Schwartzberg’s use of the funds stemmed from a culture of “loosey-goosey” business practices at the lacrosse club, where lines between business and personal expenses were often blurred as the club’s leadership, mostly “sports junkies,” had no business experience.

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“This business was not run well,” O’Neill said.

The irregularities in the Peninsula Lacrosse Club’s ledger were shown to investigators in June 2021 by the organization’s treasurer, Tim Berquist, who told police about Schwartzberg’s PayPal scheme.

Berquist disagreed with O’Neill’s characterization of the club’s business practices, noting that state authorities had reviewed its finances as part of the investigation. Any irregular transactions were due to the thefts, he said.

O’Neill noted that some of the funds rightfully belonged to Schwartzberg, as he and fellow owners would split the club’s profits. Schwartzberg eventually felt he was entitled to more money because he was working a “majority of the hours” required to keep the club running, O’Neill said.

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When club leadership confronted him about the withdrawals, Schwartzberg said he had inadvertently taken the funds, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Palisano said. However, he didn’t pay the funds back in full.

“This was an egregious breach of trust,” Palisano told Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Stacy W. McCormack.

When Schwartzberg, who previously coached lacrosse at Severn School, Archbishop Spalding and Anne Arundel Community College, started the club with fellow lacrosse colleagues nearly a decade ago it was “very well received,” O’Neill said.

“He put his whole life into lacrosse,” he added. But since being charged in January, Schwartzberg has become cast as “sort of the Antichrist of the lacrosse world,” the lawyer said.

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Prosecutors did not request that Schwartzberg pay any restitution. McCormack ordered him to file his missed tax return within 30 days.

McCormack ordered Schwartzberg to turn himself in to the county detention center Aug. 19 to serve a weekend sentence. After his release, he will have to enter home detention for a year, she said, adding that she would consider modifying his sentence in the future.

With Schwartzberg’s divestment, the club is being dissolved, Berquist said. Schwartzberg told McCormack that he will not receive any money from the club.


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