Thursday, September 30, 2010

Athletics director charged with embezzling $135K from school account in South Carolina

Bond has been set for a Midlands high school athletics director accused of embezzling more than $135,000 from the school district. The money was supposed to pay for sporting equipment, travel and jerseys, but investigators say that money went straight into the AD's pocket. Lexington County sheriff's deputies arrested White Knoll High School Athletics Director Brian Butz, 46, on Wednesday at his home in Batesburg-Leesville. An arrest warrant charges Butz with stealing $135,596 from an athletics department expenditures account between June 2006 and September 2010.Sheriff James Metts said Butz was issued a $100,000 surety bond on Thursday, and will hire his own attorney. "I'm a family man with nowhere to go," Butz told the judge.According to the warrant, Butz laundered money collected to support the school's athletics program through a bank account the district did not know about or authorize Butz to use. Butz had signature authority on the bank account, said Metts. "He took a debit card that he had on the account, go to an ATM machine and withdraw cash," Metts described. "And that's presenting a problem in us being able to document how the money was spent."In August, deputies said district Chief Financial Officer John Butler asked them to investigate "irregularities" in the athletics account, irregularities which included a negative balance. "This unknown account was not the official Booster Club account, nor was it part of the district's accounts," said Lexington School District One spokeswoman Mary Beth Hill. With the investigation underway, administrators immediately placed Butz on leave pending the inquiry, which Hill says is standard board policy and district operating procedure. A White Knoll assistant principal with past athletics director experience is currently serving as athletics director.Butz became athletics director at White Knoll in 2006 after serving as head athletics trainer. There is no word yet on Butz's current job status with the district.Under South Carolina law, embezzlement of more than $10,000 in public funds is a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, Metts said. The White Knoll High Booster Club cooperated fully with the investigation, according to Metts, and deputies did not find irregularities in any other bank accounts that are used for athletics program expenditures at White Knoll.The accusations against Butz are similar to the charges filed against Blythewood High School Touchdown Club Vice President Enola Gay Thornton, who is accused of embezzling over $3,000 from the club's account in August.

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