Saturday, September 25, 2021

Former E. Peoria football coach guilty of theft


A former football coach and teacher at East Peoria High School was sentenced to a year of probation for personally using funds that were donated for the team, the Peoria Journal-Star reports.

East Peoria High School, Illinois
East Peoria High School (school website)

Tazewell County Judge Paul Gilfillan found Doug Martin, 38, guilty of four counts of felony theft in a bench trial last month and sentenced him on September 9, saying, “He’s not a criminal in the common, everyday understanding of that word” and his thefts were not “a cover-of-darkness, elaborate scheme.”

On the contrary, Mr Martin says he believed the money raised from fundraising events for the team, such as from an annual “7 on 7” football competition involving members of teams from opposing schools, were his to control—personally. Going with that, he deposited the funds in a personal account in the name of “EP Football Fund” instead of in a school-controlled account.

But, “It stretches credulity to believe he thought that tens of thousands of extra dollars … raised under the name of East Peoria football … was his to keep for his own personal benefit,” Judge Gilfillan wrote in a statement explaining his verdict, the Pekin Daily Times reported.

At his trial, Mr Martin testified he spent virtually all of that on team-related expenses, but prosecutors said many personal expenses were also paid with money from the account, which constituted a misuse of his position of authority at the school.

Mr Martin resigned from East Peoria in April 2013 and taught for a while at a high school in Springfield, but the felony conviction could result in the forfeiture of his teaching license.

Reports of the theft of funds like this don’t happen every day, but this type of activity—coaches or managers of fundraising accounts taking personal control of the funds raised or donated—occurs often enough.

For example, Michael Curran, the head coach of a youth football program in Gilberts, Illinois, avoided prosecution last year in a case in which he was charged with forgery and stealing funds from Gilberts Youth Football and Cheer Inc, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Curran was ordered to make restitution of about $2,000 he obtained by submitting false invoices for the printing of fundraising discount cards, which are sold for $10 apiece and can be used at local restaurants and shops to obtain discounts. He billed the organization $3 each for the printing, but it only cost 75 cents each to print the cards.

In addition to making restitution for the pocketed difference between what he paid and what the organization paid him, he must do 100 hours of community service and write an apology to the youth organization. Kane County, where the charges were filed, offers this deferred prosecution to first-time, non-violent felony offenders. The charges will be dismissed after a one-year probation is successfully completed.

Still, it’s a far cry from the kind of corruption criminal activity can lead to, given the amount of money associated with school budgets, all of which should remain under the constant control and oversight of the school board.

Earlier this year, corruption in the Detroit Public Schools found a dozen principals charged with running a bribery and kickback scheme involving a local businessman who allegedly paid them more than $900,000 in kickbacks after they agreed to use him as a supplier of school supplies. The Detroit Free Press has the story.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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