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White Rock Woman Charged With Embezzling Thousands From LAYFCL

on September 22, 2017 - 7:12pm

Tabatha Jones of White Rock is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from Los Alamos Youth Football and Cheerleading League. Courtesy/LAPD

Los Alamos Daily Post

A White Rock woman was arrested Thursday and charged with embezzling thousands of dollars from the non-profit Los Alamos Youth Football and Cheerleading League (LAYFCL). Tabatha Jones was taken into custody following an interview with Los Alamos Police Det. Ryan Wolking during which she allegedly admitted to having spent the League’s money for personal use.

Jones appeared before Los Alamos Magistrate Judge Pat Casados Friday morning on a charge of embezzlement of between $2,500 and $20,000, a third-degree felony which carries a possible penalty of three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Judge Casados released her on her own recognizance but she is not allowed to have any contact with the League or attend League events.

According to the statement of probable cause filed by Det. Wolking, during the interview Jones discussed experiencing financial hardship and not having a job. Specifically, the statement says she admitted to spending the League’s money on Younique makeup products which she sells, groceries, Amazon purchases and jewelry. Jones also admitted to making $700 in cash withdrawals for which she could not remember the justification.

Wolking’s report indicates that he received a report Aug. 23 that Jones was stealing thousands of dollars from the League of which she was president. The Los Alamos League is under the umbrella of the Northern New Mexico Children’s Football League. The complaint had been made by members of the board whose members include Vice President Renee Lechuga, Treasurer Amy Urbatsch, Registrar Lori Ellard and Athletic Director Jason Wardlow Herrera.

From January 2016 through August 2017, the report says Jones was the only person in charge of the League’s finances and the only person to access its bank account. At some point, Jones allegedly added a friend to the account but she maintained control. When board members began asking questions about money, the report says, Jones closed the bank account and opened another one at a different bank.

After beginning his investigation, Wolking said he interviewed several board members who each told a similar story. He obtained a ledger distributed by Jones but found out several people had concerns that the ledger was inaccurate and incomplete. Wolking began communicating with Annmarie Villegas, executive director of the Northern New Mexico Children’s Football League who met with Jones Sept. 7 to obtain all documentation for the League’s financial records. Villegas also gained access electronically to the League’s bank account.

Through investigating with the help of Villegas, Wolking’s report states that it quickly became clear Jones used the League’s account and debit card for her own personal use.

“While additional thefts will be identified and added up after further investigation and added to the case report, just going by what (Jones) admitted to, the total loss due to theft is $4,344.51. This includes $700 cash for the withdraws, $2,340 in Younique payments, $200 for University of New Mexico, $202.88 for Kwik Lube, $43.32 for the jewelry purchase, $108 for an Amazon purchase which she referenced, $100 she paid her children from the League and $650.31 from Smith’s receipts,” the report states.

Near the end of the interview, Jones commenced writing a letter to the League so Wolking stepped out of the room. When he returned, Jones informed him that she wanted to continue writing the letter after she had time to think. Before she was accompanied to the Detention Center, Wolking removed the letter from her pocket with her permission.

The letter reads, “Dear Parents, I am truly sorry for all the hurt I have caused. I used the football account for personal use due to hardship. Many of you know I do not have a job”.

Villegas said Friday that the NNMCFL is based on teaching the fundamentals of soccer and cheer. She said there are many facets that come into play to run a successful league.

“NNMCFL is comprised of multiple affiliate leagues that umbrella under our organization. The Los Alamos Xtreme League has been an established and supported organization for many years. I’m sure many high school players can remember being a part of this great league,” Villegas said. “By no means would we want those memories tarnished or our community to distrust the League because of the mistakes of one woman.”

Villegas confirmed that Jones sat at the helm of the board of directors since November 2015 and that a board of directors was established during the off-season of 2017.

“The Xtreme could not have asked for a better board. Looking out for the best interest of our youth, the community and our sponsors, they saw inconsistencies in the financial reports, truly listened to the concerns of multiple parents and took action,” she said.

Villegas said NNMFCL was contacted by the board with the official complaint, Jones was asked for the financial records and placed on immediate leave of absence. The bank account was frozen until the review was completed.

“It didn’t take me long to see the legitimacy of the board’s concerns. In collaboration with LAPD, we discovered Jones’ embezzlement of thousands of dollars,” Villegas said.

She said the Los Alamos Xtreme and the NNMCFL as a whole are very disheartened and disappointed in Jones’ actions.

“To use football terminology, although we have been sacked we will help each other up as a team and step back on the field. The Los Alamos Xtreme will rebuild a stronger board and we will maintain the trust of all our sponsors and community members,” she said. “NNMCDL has put in place stronger financial policies for both off-season and active season activity. We are grateful to the Xtreme board of directors who were instrumental in bringing this to our attention and particularly to Det. Ryan Wolking for his dedication to this case.”

Wolking said Friday afternoon that the investigation was a group effort adding that Villegas made the investigation and arrest possible through her efforts.

“This investigation was triggered by parents, coaches and board members who recognized something was wrong and became concerned that illegal financial activity was occurring. At that point, they reported the problem and the investigation began,” Wolking said. “Since then, Ms. Villegas and I have combined our efforts and identified some problems in addition to the theft. While I address the legal issues, she is addressing the League issues and presenting a better financial management plan moving forward.”

It is anticipated that LAPD will issue a request to League sponsors and donors for information on funds they may have donated.