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Former golf course employee accused of embezzlement

A Hastings man is due in court next month on allegations he embezzled more than $70,000 from a Prescott-area golf course.

Pierce County prosecutors allege Robert P. Magnuson pocketed cash after issuing fake golf club memberships at Clifton Highlands between September 2016 and March of this year. The 58-year-old is charged with one count of felony theft by false representation.

According to a criminal complaint:

Clifton Highlands general manager Ryan Timm reported the theft in March, telling Pierce County sheriff's investigators that he learned Magnuson was selling unauthorized memberships and keeping the money. He would offer discounted rates for players who paid cash, Timm reported.

Golf course owner William Holst later told investigators he honored the unauthorized memberships Magnuson sold.

Timm said players who bought memberships were told a common "storyline" by Magnuson, the complaint states. That story involved former members who transferred out of state who wanted him to sell their memberships at a discounted rate, Timm learned.

He said players found the story believable since Magnuson described how he was helping out the former members and purportedly passing the payments along to them. In reality, Timm explained, there was no such policy at the course involving "transfer" memberships.

Another common story Timm explained to investigators was how Magnuson would sell memberships at a discount to players who paid in cash or check.

"Most of these people seemed to know something was a little off, however they went through with it because they were saving a great deal of money versus what they would normally pay," the complaint states. He would tell others he'd sell them memberships at a discount in order to buy spring merchandise for the clubhouse.

Timm said he and Holst met with Magnuson in March and he admitted to selling the discounted rates because he needed the money. He planned to pay the course back, Timm reported, adding that Magnuson considered the scheme a loan — not theft.

Timm reported that 40 customers paid for the fraudulent memberships. He calculated $73,040 in lost revenue for the course.

Timm said Holst struck an agreement with Magnuson to repay the funds without law enforcement involvement. He paid back $11,950 through June when the payments stopped.

An investigator unsuccessfully tried reaching Magnuson by phone in September.

Magnuson's initial court appearance is Dec. 18.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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