York County man pleads guilty to stealing from Md. fishing group

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
David J. Smith, former executive director of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association.

A Windsor Township man who embezzled more than $100,000 from the nonprofit Maryland sport-fishing association where he was executive director has pleaded guilty in criminal court and awaits sentencing.

David Jeffrey Smith, 40, of the 1600 block of Rosebrook Drive, pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on Jan. 16 to a felony count of theft by scheme, according to court records.

Sentencing has been set for 1:30 p.m. April 30.

He has already been ordered by a civil court judge to pay about $136,235 to the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association (MSSA) in Essex, association attorney Stephen Shechtel has said.

The civil judgment was handed down Sept. 13 after a one-day trial in Anne Arundel County Court.

That also was the day Smith was arrested on criminal charges, immediately after the civil case concluded, officials said.

The lawsuit filed by the MSSA said Smith "plundered" the organization.

The allegations: The association hired Smith as associate executive director in 2008, then promoted him to executive director the following year.

"In 2016, Smith informed the Board of Directors that the MSSA was experiencing financial difficulties," the lawsuit states. "Smith withheld from the Board of Directors that MSSA's liabilities had increased by 1,765% (not a typo) and that its total equity had declined by 53%."

In 2017, Smith withheld from the board that liabilities had increased another 136% and that the association's total equity had declined another 53%, according to the suit.

Smith took out bank loans and a line of credit in the association's name and used the money for his personal benefit, according to the lawsuit.

He also made personal charges on an MSSA credit card issued to him, the suit alleges.

Out of business: Shechtel said the association, which promoted fishing and education for anglers, couldn't sponsor fishing tournaments or qualify for insurance for those tournaments after the alleged theft.

“The MSSA is out of business," he said.

He said the association officially incorporated in 1981 but existed for years before that as an anglers' club.

In late January 2019, MSSA's president learned it was being evicted from its headquarters for failing to pay the rent.

"Smith withheld from the Board of Directors that he had not paid rent to the landlord for several months," the lawsuit states.

No tournament cash: The association also learned that Smith failed to pay tournament winners from MSSA's 2017 fall fishing tournament, according to the lawsuit.

Smith concealed monthly bank statements and other financial records from the board to hide the "true nature of the MSSA's financial condition," the suit states.

After the association fired Smith, he kept the MSSA laptop computer and cellphone that had been assigned to him, despite demands from the association that he return them, according to the lawsuit.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.