Saturday, November 23, 2013

Former Waverly Junior Football treasurer jailed for embezzlement in Michigan

A former volunteer treasurer for the Waverly Junior Football program was sentenced Thursday to 10 months in jail and 5 years probation for embezzling more than $19,000 from the program.

Celeste Foster, 40, will be required to pay $19,070 in restitution to the program. She was taken into custody after sentencing in Eaton County Circuit Court.

Vince Green, Foster’s attorney, argued that there was only one victim in this case, the football program itself, and not all the parents and children involved in it. The judge did not agree.

“You were placed in a position of trust,” Judge Janice Cunningham said to Foster. “Our whole community was a victim in every sense of the word.”

Foster, who has no criminal history, tearfully apologized to the court and to the program, explaining that her bad decisions were the result of a new relationship with a con artist who abused her and introduced her to illegal drugs. She said she has been clean since the end of last year.

“I do know what I did was wrong,” she said. “I know I caused a lot of heartbreak to the people (in the program) and the children they love.”

Elizabeth Stanton, the organization’s previous treasurer, spoke on behalf of the group. She told Cunningham that her life was turned upside down because her name remained on the account, and she had to prove that she herself had not embezzled, particularly when Foster refused to reveal any information about where the funds had gone.

“I was accused of taking the money and had to prove my innocence,” Stanton said. “We stood there for months on end, over a year and a half, with this baggage. It left us with no money, kids upset, parents upset and a program that was virtually almost gone.”

Green said he plans to seek a restitution hearing because he believes the amount should be much lower.

Foster pleaded guilty in September to embezzling between $1,000 and $20,000 from a charitable organization.

The program’s president, Jim Kilfoyle, says the organization has taken steps to ensure a similar situation never happens again. All records are available to parents, checks must be countersigned by two board members, and all expenses are brought before the board.

“Every dollar spent is basically scrutinized by the entire board,” Kilfoyle said after the proceedings. “This season has been an exercise in putting these goals in place. The bottom line is total transparency.”

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