Couple Investigated For Theft From Football League

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Two Payson residents, one associated with the Payson Youth Football League, are under investigation on theft and forgery charges from the organization.

Angela Parker, former secretary of the league could face theft charges, while her husband, Steven, could face theft and fraud charges.

Payson Police Commander Don Engler said the Payson Police Department completed its investigation on misappropriation of funds from the Payson Youth Football League and has forwarded the case to the Gila County Attorney's Office for possible charges.

The county attorney's office makes the final decision on whether any charges will be actually filed.

Dale Gonzalez, president of the Payson Youth Football League, said the issue came to light a month ago after he took over the league when the former president stepped down.

"I did some housecleaning and saw some red flags and discrepancies," he said.

The league did a professional audit of its books and has hired a lawyer. The exact amount of missing funds has yet to be determined.

Gonzalez said he does not know what the mistakes were, but he knows misappropriations of funds were taking place.

"There were things that were unethical," he said.

The issue came to light when Pam Way, then a teen mom and now the secretary, asked Parker how much money she had to pay for the use of the Walkup Skydome at Northern Arizona University.

Gonzalez said this game, played in October, is the highlight of the league. They pay NAU $1,600 every year for the use of the dome.

When Way approached Angela Parker for the money, she was told the league's bank account was empty. When Way repeated the information to Gonzalez, he knew it couldn't be true.

He said the funds were there, mentioning Jerry and Nancy Lombardi, who recently helped raise money for the Payson Youth Football League.

"All of us were shocked," Gonzalez said. "That led me to go to the books to see what was being done. It was obvious that something (had been) done."

He alleged that at least one league check had been stolen by Angela's husband, who cashed it by forging her name.

Parker admitted to Gonzalez, he said, that when she confronted her husband, he confessed to the forgery.

Gonzalez said he was astounded there were people who would steal from children.

"(I was disappointed) having kids on the team and thinking of all the people who donated to us, thinking this was going to the kids," he said. "These are kids we are talking about."

Gonzalez hopes the recent discovery won't hurt the Payson Youth Football program, which plays a large role in the lives of the community's young athletes..

"We just hit a rough rock," he said. "I am hoping it doesn't go much further."

The Parkers alleged theft is not the first time a member of the league faced criminal charges for stealing.

In 2004, Karen Schrank was sentenced to 130 days in jail and five-years probation for embezzling more than $35,000 from a local dentist's office and between $250 to $1,000 from the league.

In a July 23, 2004 letter to the editor in the Payson Roundup, Parker wrote that Schrank was no longer associated with the league.

She thanked Schrank for all of the good things she had done while being associated with Payson Youth Football.

"The purpose of Payson Youth Football is to provide opportunities for the kids to play football, and the kids come first," Parker wrote in the 2004 letter to the editor. "We have taken steps to ensure that our cash funds are as secure as possible.

"Thank you to everyone for their support of our organization, and we wish to express our regrets to Karen and her family for the unfortunate events that they are dealing with."

Gonzalez encourages residents to donate funds for the league by calling (928) 595-1259.

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

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