Thursday, September 12, 2013

Director charged with embezzling from Orange, Massachusetts youth soccer organization

The Recreation Association’s soccer director has been charged with embezzling thousands in donations and sports fees.

Jason P. Vautour, 34, of 27 Sandrah Drive, was arraigned Monday on a felony charge of larceny over $250 by embezzlement and intimidating a witness.

More than $45,000 had gone into and out of a checking account opened by Vautour since he opened it in 2009, days after he became soccer director, said Orange Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr.

“Some of the transactions on the account were completely legitimate” and went toward Orange Recreation Association projects and activities, said Haigh.

However, not all the account’s activity seems legitimate, the chief said. Police are still working to attach a dollar amount to the alleged illegitimate activity.

“We have (records of) debit card transactions at restaurants, bars, liquor stores, gas stations and supermarkets,” Haigh said.

Haigh said Vautour also used $3,000 of the recreation association’s money to put a down payment on a Humvee SUV for himself.

He then asked a donor to invoice the association $3,000 for a trailer that was given to the association, said Haigh, in an attempt to cover up the missing money used for the down-payment.

The investigation began on Aug. 29, when Recreation Association officials told Orange Police they’d been notified of some unusual activity on a checking account in the association’s name, according to Haigh. Vautour’s name also appears on the account.

The Orange Recreation Association had no record of the account, and had never given Vautour permission to open it, said Haigh.

By the time the Recreation Association discovered the account, it only had 15 cents in it, Haigh said.

As soccer director, Vautour was responsible for collecting soccer players’ registration fees, as well as donations from the community, according to Haigh. The chief said money received by Vautour should have gone into the recreation association’s revolving account.

Vautour handled much of the association’s donations, said Haigh, without much oversight.

In the course of the investigation, said Haigh, another account, this one at Workers Credit Union, was discovered to have been opened by Vautour.

Into this account, said Haigh, one of two $6,000 donations from the Rodney Hunt Co. had been deposited. Haigh said a second name had been added to the account, that of Casey Bashaw, who worked with Vautour to coordinate the building of two soccer fields at the Orange Municipal Airport.

Haigh said he believes Bashaw was unaware of any illegal activity by Vautour.

After speaking with Haigh, Bashaw closed the account, and gave Haigh a bank check written for $4,900, the balance of the account at closure.

Haigh said some cash was recovered in a search of Vautour’s residence, and cancellations were placed on checks that had been written from the account and not yet cleared. Police are still figuring out exactly how much they’ll be able to recover.

Despite the alleged embezzlement, Haigh said the recreation association soccer program, and the new field project, will still go on.

“There are a lot of very good people involved in the ORA, stepping up and making sure the season goes forward,” the chief said. “Casey Bashaw is one of them.”

The alleged embezzlement hits close to home for Orange police.

“I feel horrible having to investigate this,” Haigh said.

“Unfortunately, this harms the children,” he continued. “There are a lot of good people in town that donated money to get the fields built for the kids. There are also a lot of families who can’t really afford, and have to struggle to pay for, their kids’ registration fees.”

“It’s a shame for something like this to be done to them by someone they trust,” Haigh continued.

Orange police make regular donations to the ORA, said Haigh, and Sgt. Craig Lundgren has coached ORA sports, and sends his own children to ORA programs.

If convicted of the embezzlement charge, Vautour faces maximum penalties of five years in state prison, two years in county jail and fines up to $25,000.

Vautour was released on personal recognizance, after prosecutors asked that he be held on $10,000 cash bail or $100,000 surety. He is due back in court Oct. 7.

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