Paso soccer club funds diverted

Group’s treasurer suspended while police investigate suspicious account transfers

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comNovember 21, 2009 

Police are investigating a former bank employee from Paso Robles who is suspected of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a North County youth sports group.

Douglas Smith, 40, was suspended as treasurer of American Youth Soccer Organization Region 741 in Paso Robles after some companies that work with the group told its chairman, Christopher Cline, that they hadn’t been paid, according to a search warrant obtained by Paso Robles police Detective David Opheim.

The warrant states that Cline told a Paso Robles police officer on Oct. 6 that Smith had made online transfers totaling $24,400 in 12 increments from AYSO’s account at Heritage Oaks Bank into another account at the bank in September.

The allegations could lead to felony grand theft and embezzlement charges, according to the warrant.

The county District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case and would determine whether Smith should be arrested, police said. Prosecutors could not be reached for comment.

The warrant quotes an e-mail that Cline told police he received from Smith on Oct. 9, in which he resigned as treasurer and promised to return the “wrongfully diverted funds,” by Oct. 30.

“I made a wrong decision and a very stupid mistake, that I will end up paying the consequences of such a choice for the rest of my life,” the e-mail states. “I apologize for making this decision and hope that I can someday make up for it.”

Smith had been treasurer since April 1, Cline told police, and there hadn’t been account problems until September. When Cline realized Smith had transferred the money out of the soccer account, Smith was suspended from the group and asked to pay the money back, the warrant states.

Cline told The Tribune that Smith had not returned the funds yet and then declined further comment because the investigation has not been completed.

In October, Heritage Oaks Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Security Officer Bill Raver told police that Smith had been fired recently from the bank after admitting to transfering the soccer club’s money into a personal account, according to the search warrant.

Raver told police that Smith had tried to invest the money, and that he had planned to return it to AYSO, the warrant states.

The soccer account is funded through various means, according to the club’s budget, including registration fees and fundraising efforts.

Annual expenditures from the account include payments for uniforms, equipment, awards and other club expenses.

Officials with the national AYSO office declined to comment on how the lost money could affect players but confirmed that volunteers must undergo a background check to serve the soccer club.

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