Monday, July 1, 2013

Hockey association, tourist attraction investigated for embezzlement in Vermont

An investigation into embezzlement complaints at Cold Hollow Cider and the Harwood Youth Hockey is now being worked jointly by the Vermont State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

State Police records show a criminal complaint was initially filed June 6 about missing funds at Cold Hollow, one of the best known tourists stops in Central Vermont.

As the investigation developed, information led to questions about financial dealings at Harwood Youth Hockey, also known as the Friends of Harwood Hockey, officials said. Police said the FBI was recently consulted and is now part of the joint investigation.

Attempts by the Burlington Free Press to reach one suspect in the investigation were unsuccessful. Two phone messages left at the person’s residence were not returned. A person answering the phone the second time said the suspect would not be commenting.

Tris Coffin, the U.S. Attorney from Vermont, declined comment on the investigation.

Federal officials normally does not get involved in embezzlement cases until at least $100,000 is thought to be missing.

Paul Brown, the owner of Cold Hollow, told the Burlington Free Press he would issue a statement after an arrest is made in the criminal case.

“As soon as one is made, I will have a full statement,” he said. Until that time, Brown said he will allow investigators to do their work.

Multiple attempts to reach officials from Harwood Youth Hockey were unsuccessful.

The association’s budget will be discussed at a public board meeting 6 p.m. July 10th at the American Legion on Stowe Street in Waterbury.

The association was formed in 1980 as a non-profit for the teaching of boys and girls in the towns of Waterbury, Duxbury, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston about the game of hockey, according to its website.

The Ice Center of Washington West, which opened in 2003, is the home rink for the association.

Embezzlement complaints involving more than $100,000 in funds at Waterbury’s Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Friends of Harwood Hockey have prompted a federal investigation, several sources confirmed to the Waterbury Record Tuesday. Friends of Harwood Hockey is the 501c3 nonprofit title for Harwood Youth Hockey.
Yesterday, the Burlington Free Press reported online that both the Vermont State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are looking into the allegations following a criminal complaint June 6.

“As soon as there is an indictment or an arrest I will be happy to talk,” Paul Brown, owner of Cold Hollow, told the Waterbury Record Tuesday.
When asked if the subject of the investigation is affiliated with both Cold Hollow and Harwood Youth Hockey, Brown said, “I can’t say, but you can connect the dots.”
Brown confirmed that the person being investigated is a former employee of Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and that the case collectively involves more than $100,000 in funds. He said both he and Harwood Youth Hockey noticed a problem “over a month ago.”
According to Friends of Harwood Hockey’s federal 990 tax form, the organization’s expense budget totaled $57,205 in 2012.
“It’s going to be awhile,” before the investigation is completed, Brown said. “The FBI is involved and they like to go digging a lot more.”
Angela Wells, president of the hockey organization, declined to comment on the case while it is under investigation.
“Harwood Youth Hockey is cooperating fully with the investigation,” she said.
Wells said the case would not affect the upcoming hockey season, which begins in October. Children up to age 15 compete through the program at the Ice Center of Washington West. The arena is run by an unaffiliated nonprofit.
Harwood Youth Hockey will not discuss the investigation at its July 10 board meeting at the American Legion in Waterbury, Wells said.
Neither Vermont State Police nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to calls by press time. According to sources, no arrest has been made.

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