Saturday, February 22, 2014
Cheerleading coach charged with embezzlement
Lake Orion cheerleading Coach Nancy De Avila has been charged with embezzlement for allegedly using funds from a charitable organization at Lake Orion Schools for personal use.
The charitable fund was the Natalie Rae Nance Scholarship Fund. Money donated to the charity was to be used to provide small monetary scholarships to graduating Lake Orion High School students in the areas of art, cosmetology and cheerleading.
De Avila was arraigned in 52-3 District Court on Tuesday on a felony charge of embezzlement of a charitable group from $200 to $1,000. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or restitution of three times the amount of money embezzled.
She also was arraigned on an alternate misdemeanor count of embezzlement of $200 to $1,000. It includes a fine of $2,000 or three times the amount of money embezzled.
Magistrate Maria Soma placed De Avila on a $10,000 personal bond with a provision not to have contact with the Natalie Rae Nance Scholarship representatives.
Lake Orion School officials said De Avila has resigned from her position at the district. She was the competitive cheer coach and the team was having a good season, winning the district championship on Saturday. She was named the District Coach of the Year.
The Orion Township office of the Oakland County Sheriff's Department began an investigation into the fund in December.
In November, organizers of the charity charged with managing the funds detected shortages and filed a police report after their efforts to look into the shortages were stalled by lack of cooperation from a fund member.
The two-month investigation found that funds from the charity were allegedly converted to De Avila's personal use over a three-year period. She was one of those entrusted with managing the fund.
The investigation found that checks from the funds were used to purchase goods and services and make payments on personal credit card accounts
The Natalie Rae Nance Scholarship Fund was established after Natalie Rae Nance died in an automobile accident in January 2006.
She was 21 years old and a 2003 graduate from Lake Orion High School. Shortly after her death, a scholarship fund was started by Natalie's parents.
The fund was established in memory of Natalie and would award monetary scholarships to graduating Lake Orion students in three areas: Art, Cosmetology and Cheerleading.
The fund was supported by donations with one main fundraising gala held every year in the Lake Orion Community.
De Avila's next court date is set for February 27.
A Lake Orion High School cheerleading coach will appear in district court Thursday after investigators say she embezzled money from a charity fund created for the team.
Nancy De Avila, 49, is charged with embezzlement from a charitable group — which could carry a penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine or three times the amount embezzled is she’s convicted of a felony in the case — and will appear for a pretrial in 52-3 District Judge Lisa Asadoorian’s courtroom.
The case reaches back to 2010, said Sheriff’s Orion Township substation Lt. Dan Toth.
“It went for three years unnoticed,” said Toth. “It wouldn’t have been noticed, either, because there were several instances where she would take money out of the fund for personal use and put it back in shortly after.”
De Avila, cheerleading coach at Lake Orion High School, took the money from a scholarship fund originally set up in 2006, deputies report.
The fund, named the Natalie Rae Nance Scholarship Fund after the death of former graduate Nance — 21 years old when she died in a tragic traffic accident — gave small amounts to exceptional students at the high school in the areas of art, cosmetology and cheerleading. It was supported by donations with one main fundraising gala held every year in the Lake Orion Community.
The investigation was launched in Nov. 2013, when scholarship organizers found shortages in the fund’s bank statements and filed a police report when De Avila allegedly stalled their efforts to look into why the money was missing.
Orion Township deputies’ investigation revealed funds from the scholarship had been converted to personal use over a three year period by De Avila, one of the managers on the account. Checks from the fund were used to purchase goods and services and make payment on personal credit card accounts without the knowledge or approval of the fund organizers, deputies said.
Toth added that once the investigation was brought to light, De Avila did make deposits before she was ultimately taken into custody.
“I think at one point, the fund account was down over $10,000, and several thousand dollars was returned, but the account is still over $1,000 short ,” Toth said. “Those final figures are still being looked at by investigators.”
Toth said it could come out in court what types of things De Avila may have bought with fund money, or whether she bought anything at all.
While De Avila is free on a $10,000 personal bond and cannot have any contact with Natalie Rae Nance Scholarship representatives, the Lake Orion High School cheerleading team has a state finals competition scheduled for this weekend in Grand Rapids. An interim coach will be leading the team, school officials said.
Lake Orion Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis was not immediately available for comment on De Avila’s track record with the school, but Orion’s Lt. Toth said that “by many accounts, she was a good coach.”