No Prison for the Friars Club Boss Members Seem to Love or Hate

A former executive director of the Friars Club was sentenced to one year of supervised release on Monday, but there were few signs in the courtroom, filled to overflowing with bickering current and past members, that the proceeding would end the rancor that disrupted the 115-year-old club.

Some critics of the former director, Michael Gyure, who pleaded guilty in January to having filed false tax returns, said his actions reflected a pattern of lax oversight at the club.

Mr. Gyure’s supporters, on the other hand, have dismissed the criticism as overblown and described his continued stewardship as vital to the club’s future.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of Federal District Court in Manhattan repeatedly emphasized on Monday that Mr. Gyure, 51, was being sentenced only for his tax offenses. Gripes about his leadership, she said, were beyond the court’s scope.

“I recognize that I have some detractors at the Friars Club,” he said. “Sadly, I have given them ammunition.”

Defense lawyers countered that the Friars typically created separate companies to handle roasts so the club would avoid liability, and that Mr. Gyure had not benefited because the roast did not turn a profit.

Mr. Gyure began serving as executive director in 2007.

“For the past 12 years Michael has been the glue that held the Friars Club together,” Paul Shechtman, a defense lawyer told the judge on Monday.

But three former Friars and one current member of the club vehemently disagreed, saying that mismanagement under his reign had led to multiple problems.

One who spoke was Sondra Beninati, who said she became disturbed when she realized the Friars owed large amounts of unpaid sales tax. She agreed to wear a hidden recording device for federal investigators who raided the club in 2017 because of suspicion of financial improprieties.

She said she and her husband had asked how club officials were handling the sales tax matter and sought several meetings with Mr. Gyure.

“We were blocked at every turn,” she said.

But Judge Buchwald cut Ms. Beninati and two other speakers short, saying their assertions were not directly connected to the false tax returns that Mr. Gyure had filed.

“How the club is run is up to its members,” she said, and advised that one recourse might be the ballot box. “Elections, they have consequences.”

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