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Hastings man could see golf course embezzlement charge wiped clean

Robert P. Magnuson

A Hastings man blamed his gambling addiction on an embezzlement scheme that netted him $70,000 at a Prescott-area golf course, but a plea agreement struck Tuesday will allow him to repay that money while addressing his problems.

Robert P. Magnuson pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft May 29 in Pierce County Circuit Court, a charge that will be dismissed if the 58-year-old abides the terms of an agreement.

Pierce County Circuit Court Judge Joe Boles approved the joint recommendation, which requires Magnuson to repay money to an insurance company that insured Clifton Highlands Golf Course, his former employer.

Proceedings moved forward after Boles disclosed to attorneys that he is friends with both Magnuson and Clifton Highlands owner Bill Holst. Neither Pierce County Assistant District Attorney Kaley Walker nor defense attorney Lars Loberg raised objections to what Boles said could be a "situation ripe for recusal," so he remained on the case.

The deferred judgment requires Magnuson to undergo assessments for gambling addiction and substance abuse. He has four years to fulfill the agreement.

"He had — and has — a very serious gambling addiction," Loberg said, telling the judge Magnuson gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars at Treasure Island Resort & Casino. "The gambling addiction was the impetus to this."

During his time to speak to the court, Magnuson said he never meant to keep the money and always intended to repay the funds. Magnuson, who ran the Clifton Highland club house, was accused of selling fraudulent golf club memberships and pocketing the money.

"I knew all these people well," an emotional Magnuson said in court, referring to the people who bought the phony memberships.

Boles cautioned him to work hard on his recovery, noting that gambling addiction can be "particularly diabolical ... so it will take a lot of work from you."

Still, the judge said the deferred judgment agreement "has hope in it" that allows Magnuson to restore what's been lost — both funds and others' trust.

"As low as you feel today, you're to be able to come back from it," Boles said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

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