Vista Pop Warner looking to recover after losing $93K

Vista Pop Warner looking to recover after losing $93K
Players in a Vista Pop Warner football team take a photo after winning a competition. The 30-year-old nonprofit said more than $93,000 was stolen from their bank account, and they hope to restore the money before the 2016 season begins. Photo courtesy of TeamBank.org

VISTA — A local youth sports group is hoping to restore its coffers after losing more than $93,000.

The Vista Pop Warner Football and Cheer, a group that organizes sporting events for more than 300 kids, recently launched a fundraising campaign on TeamBank.org, a crowdfunding website geared toward athletes.

The campaign was launched after leaders discovered money was missing from the nonprofit’s bank account.

Ken Elliot, an attorney who has coached for Vista Pop Warner since 1998, said a former leader swindled money by having board members sign blank checks.

“In other words, she was representing as though she was paying the bills,” Elliot said. “I think the biggest concern among the parents right now is getting this woman prosecuted and making sure we have enough to keep the teams running.”

Elliot wouldn’t identify the person who the group accuses of stealing money, but he did say board members are cooperating with the Sheriff’s Department as it investigates the allegations. The attorney said he believes the investigation will show even more money was stolen because of cash transactions.

As the circumstances surrounding the lost money is being investigated, leaders hope to fundraise at least $30,000 to pay vendors.

“We got $30,000 in outstanding bills that have popped up from the last two years for uniforms, equipment —everything we need to keep running,” Elliot said. “We want to get our vendors paid so they’ll continue to work with us.”

Elliot said Vista Pop Warner may have to find new vendors or change the season if they are unable to pay.

“We would like to be up and running so the kids who want to participate this year can,” Elliot said. “We don’t want to suffer any more losses.”

The public loss Vista Pop Warner faced is what forced San Diego company TeamBank.org to get involved. The online company is waiving the 7 percent fee it typically charges groups for hosting its fundraiser.

“We had worked with Vista Pop Warner for their 2015 season,” Jackson Dargan, director of operations for TeamBank.org, said. “We saw the news story come out (about the lost money) and we really felt for their situation.”

Dargan said he felt most sorry for the children in the programs who may not be able to participate in another season.

“I think it’s pretty sad,” Dargan said. “It’s not so much about taking the money. It’s about not allowing the kids to participate. It’s pretty horrifying what happened.”

To guarantee the incident isn’t repeated, Vista Pop Warner’s board members implemented a number of changes, Elliot said.

“We closed the existing bank account and opened a new account,” Elliot said. “The account has online access for certain board members so they can monitor the account. We also changed some policies and procedures, and give monthly statements to all board members.”

The 2016 season for Vista Pop Warner begins in August. Registration for the season has already begun.

For more information about Vista Pop Warner Football and Cheer, go to vistapopwarner.com.

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