Friday, September 24, 2010

Booster club officer to face charge in embezzlement in Port Huron, Michigan

A woman accused of stealing money from high school sports boosters is expected to be arraigned
Oct. 6.The St. Clair County Prosecutor's Office has issued a warrant charging Carolyn Rhodes, former treasurer of the Marine City High School boosters club, with embezzlement of funds $1,000 to less than
$20,000.If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison, Prosecutor Mike Wendling said. He declined to
comment further.The Marine City Police Department started an investigation into missing money earlier this year after being contacted by club President Retha Jordon. In June, police Chief Don Tillery said the
case had been forwarded to the prosecutor's office for review.Jordon said the money was stolen over a two year period and that Rhodes no longer is affiliated with the club. Officials have said procedures -- such as
requiring two signatures on every check -- were put in place this summer to avoid future issues.
Rhodes did not return a phone message left Thursday afternoon

A Marine City High School Booster Club officer will be arraigned Oct. 6 on embezzlement charges.

Carrie Rhodes is scheduled to appear before Judge Richard Cooley at the 72nd District Court after being accused of pilfering Marine City Booster Club funds last June while serving as club treasurer.

St. Clair County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mike Hulewicz said Rhodes is charged with one count of embezzlement, which carries a sentence of up to five years and/or a $10,000 fine or three times the amount embezzled.

Booster Club President Retha Jordan said Rhodes recently made her last installment on paying back the $35,000 she is accused of stealing by cashing phony checks. Although glad to see the money restored to the club account, Jordan said she is still waiting to see that Rhodes gets due punishment for her crime.

"It doesn't matter if she paid it back," she said. "I don't want to see a slap on the wrist or a misdemeanor, she needs to be reprimanded."

Jordan said she expects, at the very least, counseling and community service, with a probationary period.

"It should include counseling," she said. "She has to have a problem. They need to get her some help. Also, a letter of apology to the kids and she can't work around any money - ever."

Jordan has safeguards in place now that prevent any future mismanagement of funds. She will now be doing random audits and two signatures will be required on all documents. She is also making bank statements available to the parents, she added.

The Marine City Booster Club is a non-profit group that raises money to help provide for high school sports equipment the school district is unable to purchase. They raise money through concession stand sales and other fundraisers. The club is a separate entity from the East China schools, with a separate bank account and administrators. The "pay and play" athletic program funds go to the high school and are not part of the booster club.

The group nearly lost its charitable gaming license after the investigation, but Jordan said they were able to retain it to put on future Texas Hold'em events, which are one of the club's biggest fundraisers.

Jordan said the unfortunate incident has not deterred sports fans from donating to the club.

"Everyone has still been generous," she said. "We get big crowds at the concessions. First of all, they know it wasn't me. I was the one to do all this digging. And we've gotten good feedback, even from the principal."

The school district contacted the Marine City Police Department June 21 after an internal investigation led by Jordan pointed to the club treasurer using club funds for personal use. Police then turned over club financial records to the St. Clair County Prosecutor's Office.

In an earlier interview, Jordan said, "If everybody would be honest, this wouldn't have happened. We were on the honor system. We trusted you. You live and learn."

The school district hired accountant Glen McBride of McBride, Manley and Miiller to search the records to find the total amount of Rhodes' indiscretions.

Former club President Jim Dupuie said he never suspected Rhodes of diverting the funds because she supplied a monthly report - which he later learned was fabricated - of all the club's financial activities at every meeting. Rhodes was not supplying the actual bank statements at the time.

East China School District Director of Financing Barbara Haman said she recently "shared district-approved procedures for handling cash and making disbursements" with the various service groups working within the district, to help them avoid future incidents.

"They are good people who have good intentions," she said.

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