PYSA treasurer charged with embezzlement

Published 1:07 am Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Picayune woman has been charged with embezzling money from the Picayune Youth Softball Association while she was treasurer.

Chief Investigator Donnie Saucier with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department said that 52 year-old Rebecca Ellers, of 722 Idlewild Lane, was arrested Friday on the charge of felony embezzlement for allegedly taking about $7,200 from the sports organization’s bank account.

PYSA Director of Operations Jennifer Harvey said in a telephone interview on Friday that she became suspicious that money was missing from the organization’s account when she was taking some of the youngsters to a National tournament over the summer. Harvey, who has been a coach in the organization for the past four years and was just recently elected to the board, said she asked Ellers for $600 to take the players on the trip this past summer. While on the trip, Harvey said she checked the envelope provided to her by Ellers and found $200 in cash and a $200 check. The final tip came when Harvey said she and the other board members attempted to pay a local sign making company about $205 for signs advertising the organization’s Fall Ball League. The check bounced because Harvey said the account actually had only $18, when it was supposed to have $3,200.

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Harvey said the missing funds were supposed to help with the purchase of new dugout benches and to make other improvements to the fields at Friendship Park. The bounced check prompted the board to call a meeting with Ellers to acquire bank documents, which Ellers brought, and at first inspection appeared to be legitimate, Harvey said.

However, Harvey said she checked further into the matter with the bank and found that the statements provided by Ellers at the board meeting were fraudulent.

Saucier said the Sheriff’s Department was contacted about the missing money and the department’s investigation confirmed the documents provided to the board by Ellers were fraudulent. That investigation determined that Ellers allegedly siphoned about $7,200 from the PYSA account during her tenure as treasurer, between May and October of this year, Saucier said. Ellers had taken office as treasurer in April of 2010.

Investigation by the Sheriff’s Department determined that Ellers apparently was depositing less money into the account than she recorded and used false bank statements to indicate a larger amount, Saucier said.

Funds collected by PYSA through registration fees and concession stand sales are used to purchase equipment for the players and to make park and field improvements, Harvey said. She said the current board, which consists of some new and old members, hope that the change in treasurer will allow the organization to work towards making those improvements and possibly to build batting cages, new concession stands and keep the organization moving in a positive direction.

“We may never get our money back, but our point is to take the corruption out…,” Harvey said. “We want the park to excel.”

Saucier said the investigation showed that none of the current or previous board members were involved in, or knew of, Ellers’ alleged embezzlement.