after Vegas trip
Kids and parents hope for aBy Christine Donnelly
Good Samaritan after thousands
of dollars are stolen from a
kids' football fund-raiser
Police have arrested a man suspected of stealing thousands of dollars from his son's Pop Warner football team in a bogus fund- raiser. But the money was not immediately recovered, meaning the team might not make it to Las Vegas to defend its championship in the Silver Bowl.
Police said it appeared that the suspect used the money to go to Las Vegas himself.
"He just got back. I think (the money is) all spent," said Det. Glen Muramoto, who hopes a good Samaritan will step forward to help finance the team trip planned for Dec. 8-15. "One bad guy shouldn't spoil the hopes and dreams of all these kids."
The team is accepting donations to pay for the trip and to provide refunds to patrons who bought kalua pork. Anyone who would like to donate may send a check to Manoa Paniolo Football, P.O. Box 61134, Honolulu, HI 96839
The 30-year-old suspect was arrested about 8 p.m. yesterday at his Waikiki apartment and was being held at the main police station pending investigation of multiple counts of felony theft, Muramoto said. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine upon conviction.
Muramoto said the suspect consented to a search of his apartment and car. Officers found receipts for a Nov. 16-22 trip to Las Vegas, as well as unsold fund- raiser tickets, but no substantial amount of cash, he said.
Police were alerted to the theft Saturday, when hundreds of people waited in vain at Manoa park for $10 portions of kalua pork they had paid for in advance to help the Manoa Paniolo Pop Warner team raise money to go to Las Vegas. The suspect had been in charge of that fund-raiser, as well as of the travel arrangements for 120 players, coaches and family members planning to make the trip, police said.
It's hard to say how much money is missing, because no one but the suspect knows how many tickets were sold, Muramoto said. But players' parents estimate more than $20,000 was lost, including money from the kalua pork sales and direct payments parents gave to the suspect but which he allegedly never forwarded to the travel agency booking the trip.
"I feel kind of sick because (the Silver Bowl) is like the Super Bowl to me. Last year (our opponent) was undefeated four years and we smoked them," said Mitchell Loo, a 14-year-old Roosevelt High School freshman who plays on Manoa's midget-division team. (Pop Warner football is divided by age into junior pee-wee, pee wee and midget teams.) The Las Vegas tournament lasts several days and attracts Pop Warner teams from all over the country.
As for the loss to the team's supporters, Loo said: "I think it's a disgrace. I hope nobody blames (the players) because it wasn't our fault."
Parents were happy to hear of the arrest, but also mindful that it alone would not salvage the trip or provide refunds for those who had supported the team.
"We just hope they get some of the money back, somehow," said parent Mike Fase.
The episode taught parents a painful lesson about always having more than one person involved in every aspect of financial matters.
"We had no reason to distrust the person. He's been with us all year, all the games, the practices," said Louis Siracusa, whose 14-year-old son, Daniel Siracusa, is on the team. "It's a big disappointment."