A former USClub Competitive Program Director and Past-President of the Oakdale Youth Soccer League was arrested by Oakdale Police on June 1 after a two- month investigation into over $18,000 of embezzled league funds.
In March, police started the investigation after the board of directors discovered a variance in funds after a parent-requested audit.
Oakdale Police Sergeant Joe Johnson stated that on Wednesday, June 1 at 10:30 a.m. investigators in the case went to the residence of former OYSL board member Jo Harris to serve a search warrant and arrested her for embezzlement.
“The investigation showed that she opened an account in the name of the soccer league and would deposit player fees and other league funds into the account,” Johnson said. “She would later make cash withdrawals and in some cases paid her utility bill and car payment from the account.”
When the account opened, Harris was the league president. She left that post in late 2013.
Back in March, OYSL officials were tight lipped about missing funds causing some parents to reach out to The Leader to complain that the board was not doing anything before the matter was turned over to police.
At that time OYSL Board Member Ami Poncabare told The Leader that only a couple of thousand dollars was missing and the discrepancy surrounded a fundraiser where parents sold sports cups as part of money to cover costs for registration and league fees.
Johnson stated the investigation showed the actual loss was $18,141.69.
When contacted on June 1, Poncabare said she did not want to discuss the matter and refused to explain the nine-time variance from the original figure disclosed.
Later, an official statement was made to The Leader by the Oakdale Youth Soccer League: “Our program is taking this extremely serious and cooperating with the authorities. We are working and responding to all inquiries for documentation by the police department. We have added multiple cross-audit systems to address the potential of future incidents. Our program will move forward with a great season supporting the youth in our community.”
The investigation, which included reviewing bank records and coordination with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, showed Harris, 45, took $9,613 in cash withdrawals from the account and wrote checks for over $1,400 to Modesto Irrigation District for utility bills for her Three Chimneys Way residence in the Bridle Ridge development. One check was also written for her car payment.
Johnson said police also had obtained bank ATM footage showing Harris making the cash withdrawals from the account.
Sgt. Johnson said Harris admitted to police that she wrote the checks but that she had previously used her own money and credit cards to pay for tournament fees and was reimbursing herself.
Johnson added that Harris told police that her husband was not involved in the case and not aware of the withdrawals and transactions. She told investigators she handled the OYSL account herself.
Investigators added that despite her claim that she turned over all OYSL documents to the league previously, several OYSL documents and records were found in her home during the execution of the search warrant.
Earlier this year Harris was named “Citizen of the Year” for 2015 by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce.
A previous Leader article on the award shows she was recognized giving “her time valiantly to the citizens of Oakdale, especially the children. Jo is very kind, giving unselfishly and never fails to help or head up an event or fundraiser.”
The article mentions Harris has been involved OYSL and, “She has been one of the main soccer volunteers for 15 years.”
When contacted about the arrest, Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola said she had no comment.
Harris was booked into Stanislaus County Jail for felony embezzlement and grand theft. She was released after posting $10,000 bail later that same evening. Further action is pending.
Police stated the investigation is continuing and other financial documents will be examined to determine if there is an additional loss or charges.