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Pop Warner Football Official Denies Charge of Theft

Courts: Investigators say former president pocketed $11,000 of league's funds. Board contacted authorities after bills went unpaid.

November 08, 1996|TINA NGUYEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA NIGUEL — The former president of Saddleback Valley's Pop Warner football league pleaded not guilty Thursday in Municipal Court to a charge of pocketing about $11,000 in league funds.

Debbie Krueger, 46, remains in the county Central Women's Jail on a grand theft charge pending a pretrial hearing next Thursday.

Sheriff's Department detectives began investigating Krueger earlier this year after other members of the league contacted authorities, Lt. Tom Garner said.

"Apparently she had been writing herself checks to the tune of over $11,000," Garner said. "We opened an investigation and determined, indeed, that that did occur."

Detectives said they called Krueger at her home Tuesday and asked her to come to the sheriff's station, where she was booked.

Krueger, whose son played for one of the league's 10 football teams, had served as league treasurer in 1995 and was this year's president until the arrest.

Sharon Wargo, a former league board member, said Thursday that parents became suspicious when there was no money to pay for trophies, yearbooks and other expenses for the teams. She said the financial files and records on the league's computer had been erased.

"Bills were not being paid and people were coming after us,' said Wargo, of Lake Forest. "That's when it all started coming down."

Wargo said she headed a league investigation committee and discovered that the league's checks were going into Krueger's personal checking account. Although investigators said about $11,000 in checks were deposited in Krueger's account, Pop Warner members said as much as $18,000 is missing.

"There was cash in the snack bar," Wargo said. "Who knows where it went, but that money's gone."

To help cover the losses, parents raised money through a silent auction and paid an extra $25 in registration fees per child. Wargo added that the league is now financially stable, but other losses can't be recouped.

"We lost families because of this situation," she said. "It just shows crime doesn't pay."

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