As fall sports begins, here is a reminder from Your Kid’s Not Going Pro: the person handling the money for your league or booster club could be a thief. Especially if that person is nice, trustworthy and reliable.
It’s hard enough to get help, especially to find someone willing to do the scut work of handling the books — which is often why a beloved volunteer gets free reign with the checkbook. In most cases, a youth sports organization will avoid trouble by doing what my church requires — two signatures to authorize any spending, with a check cut by a treasurer who produces regular budget reports. It helps if it’s not the same two signatures every time. There are plenty of other bits of advice you can find online to help prevent embezzlement. However, youth sports organizations have to make the effort, or else they’ll end up with volunteers in the police blotter, as happened with these organizations over the last month:
TRENTON, N.J. — A 58-year-old former Pop Warner football volunteer in late July was sentenced to 27 months in prison and has to make $560,000 in restitution — yes, $560,000, that’s not a typo — after his wire fraud conviction. David Marshall of Jackson, N.J., apologized at his sentencing, saying he intended to pay back money he took from league accounts because of personal financial issues — which never happened. Among Marshall’s responsibilities with Pop Warner’s Eastern Region (which covers multiple states) was handling accounts. Pop Warner officials told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press that the region has “new oversight procedures in place.”
HASTINGS, Minn. — A man who co-founded a suburban St. Paul, Minn., youth sports league in July was charged with five counts of felony theft, accused of taking $113,000 from that same organization. According to the Pioneer Press newspaper, Robert Reischauer, 62, of Apple AAPL +0.35% Valley worked as the finance manager for the Rosemount Area Athletic Association from its founding in 1976 until early 2013, when he stepped down after league officials noted accounting errors they thought were merely mistakes. Instead, the league said, Reischauer wrote checks to himself and deleted them from his accounting records. (Reischauer has not commented or plead on his case.) Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom noted to the Pioneer Press that, not counting this case, he has prosecuted five youth sports embezzlement cases since 2009.
MILFORD, Ohio — Two women who sat on the board of the Milford Basketball Association were indicted in July on grand theft charges, accused of taking $21,000 over six years for personal use that was supposed to be spent on concession-stand items. The association noticed a problem when numbers didn’t add up, and that Sam’s Club, their supplier of choice, didn’t have receipts to match all the purchases. No pleas have been entered.
You can read similar stories out of Pennsylvania and Washington. In no case did anyone ever suspect any wrongdoing — until it was way too late, risking a league’s survival, or requiring extra fund-raising to keep from leaving parents from holding the (empty bag). The lesson for any youth sports organization, as Ronald Reagan liked to say: trust, but verify.