KIRTLAND — The mother of a Kirtland youth baseball player allegedly stole nearly $15,000 from the league's bank account.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is investigating the missing money. Investigators have a suspect and plan to charge the woman with a crime on Thursday, said Lt. Cory Tanner. The sheriff's office declined to release the woman's name because she has yet to be arrested.
The Lower Valley Amateur Baseball Congress is struggling to pay for uniforms and has pushed back its opening day because of the embezzlement scandal, which dates back a year, said Ty Vaughan, the vice president of the league.
Lower Valley is a youth baseball league in Kirtland for 200 children, ages 4 to 14.
Randon Matthews, a league board member and a sergeant for the Bloomfield Police Department, said a league official withdrew $14,600 from the league's bank account without permission. The woman had a son who played in the league, and she was a volunteer.
The league's money came primarily from registration fees and donations from local businesses.
"It drained us. She took everything we had," Vaughan said. "It's just too bad somebody had to steal from the kids."
League officials discovered the theft recently. Vaughan and Matthews were elected to the league's board this year, and one of the board's first projects was to examine the league's bank statements and operating costs, Matthews said.
When Vaughan saw the league's financial records earlier this month, he quickly realized the woman was withdrawing money. In March, she took about $10,000 from the account, he said.
"It was obvious," he said.
The league turned over its financial records to the sheriff's office and quickly fired the woman from her position.
The scandal has hurt the teams as they prepare for the season.
Right now, the league has a $3,000 bill for uniforms they can't afford to pay. The teams also don't have any money to pay for tournaments and will struggle to pay umpire fees, Matthews said.
The league has planned a fundraiser on May 4 at the baseball field at Ruth N. Bond Elementary School, 5 Road 6575, Kirtland. Coaches from the league and possibly local high school players will be putting on a $20 clinic from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hopes of making back some of the money that was stolen, Vaughan said.
Board members also said that they have since tightened the league's bylaws in the hopes of preventing future losses.
"We're rewriting our bylaws, and we are trying to keep it from happening again," Vaughan said.
Ryan Boetel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @RBoetel.