Cleveland's Youth Football And Cheer League Investigated For Possible Embezzlement

Thursday, September 12th 2019, 9:22 am
By: Tess Maune

Thursday morning, News On 6 is learning more about a possible embezzlement investigation into Cleveland's youth football and cheer league.

Cleveland's police chief says no money from the 2019 registration has been deposited into the league's account. And with about 100 kids signed up, that means thousands of dollars are missing.

Police chief Clint Stout says the situation is a mess; right now, he's not sure if it's embezzlement, bad business decisions, or bad bookkeeping.

Stout says all of the league's records and receipts were brought to him in an old, cardboard diaper box.

He says the league doesn't have money for uniforms, field rental, paying the refs or concessions.

Stout says for the first games some players wore white t-shirts with numbers made out of duck tape or marker. He says cheer uniforms were never even ordered.

Stout says multiple board members are allowed to handle the money; and with no bookkeeping, it's hard to trace where the money went and will be even harder, he says, to prove embezzlement.

Stout is asking parents who registered their child with a check to bring a copy of the check to the station. For those who paid with cash, he needs to know how much and who they gave the money to.

This comes just two years after Halee Swafford pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $17,000 from the league. She's paying restitution, but hasn't been sentenced.

Stout he's investigating this as the police chief and a dad. He has a 6-year-old son who plays in the league. He also says parents are now planning fundraisers to keep the league going.

There were talks at Thursday’s City Council meeting about the council possibly taking over the league and what that would look like.

These were just discussions, no action was taken. While this meeting went on, an investigator was meeting with youth football and cheer league board members across the street at the police department. Investigators say they have accounted for some of the money paid with checks, right now they are focusing on the cash payments.

"I am just trying to account for cash. I am just trying to account for cash - cash payments that were made for either cheer students or football athletes, student athletes to the league," said Cleveland Police Investigator Mark Smith.

“It is very frustrating from the outside looking in. I don't have a child that plays but for accountability's sake - that is ridiculous. That is sad because they are really hurting the community and the kids. I mean they are taking away from the kids in this league," Smith said.

"It has been complete anxiety and agony, trying to figure out where our uniforms are, getting any answers- well before the investigation started, we were asking questions," said parent Shelby McAffrey.

“It was humiliating the first game going out in mixed matched uniforms, colors that weren’t even our teams. It was really humiliating. I think from here on out we are just trying to let the kids finish the season as positive as we can," McAffrey said.


News On 6's Sawyer Buccy also contributed to this report. 

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