Former Saugatuck Venetian Festival Fundraiser/Official Don Karaus Jr. Involved In Holland Club Scandal & State Investigation
Don Karaus Jr. from Ganges Township who formerly ran Saugatuck’s Venetian Festival and who came under a cloud of suspicion for allegedly skimming and pocketing cash from the event and lying about having IRS approval to run a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, is at the center of another scandal, this time at the Pioneer Club in Holland, according to state officials.
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission raided the Pioneer Club in downtown Holland on July 29 and removed apparently illegal gaming machines, liquor, club records and more as part of an ongoing investigation.
According to Pioneer Club members, Karaus joined the club about two years ago and immediately began holding what some members say were illegal gambling games that generated cash that they say, in many cases, has disappeared.
Reportedly, Karaus was admitted to the club as a member and then persuaded other Pioneer Club members to name him treasurer and he and fellow friends and members - including Chris King, who also came under suspicion for alleged missing cash and few or non-existent financial records to verify where cash from the Saugatuck Venetian Festival event ended up - started running the questionable, and possibly illegal events.
Several Pioneer Club members, including Murray Nichols, have told the Observer that they have witnessed “Karaus and his cronies”:
1. bringing in “illegal” liquor from other states with lower liquor taxes and then reselling it to club members at regular prices to pocket the additional funds.
2. holding various gambling/gaming card or machine games and events
3. removing coins from a pool table and other machines in the club and the money “has disappeared” and not been accounted for, and other possibly illegal and/or inappropriate actions.
Karaus and King could not be reached for comment.
One Pioneer member said, “I’ve seen it. “I’ve seen the poker machines. I’ve seen the rolling of the dice. I’ve seen a queen of hearts — they had a queen of hearts not too long ago where you have to bet on a card and they draw it out of a thing.”
State officials, who have requested anonymity citing the ongoing investigation, have told The Local Observer that Karaus and other Pioneer officials - and their actions - are at the center of the ongoing state investigation that is continuing.