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Internal audit uncovers $20,000 missing from Pasco Sunlake High School sports booster account

Money collected by the Sunlake High School Athletic Booster Club was to benefit sports teams.

Times file photo

Money collected by the Sunlake High School Athletic Booster Club was to benefit sports teams.

12

January

Slightly more than $20,000 in money collected by the Sunlake High School Athletic Booster Club can't be accounted for because of lax record keeping and poor reporting, an internal audit by the Pasco County school district shows. Officials are preparing to ask law enforcement to investigate.

This incident comes just more than a year after the school's Band Booster treasurer was arrested on allegations she stole more than $46,000 from that organization.

According to the new audit report, the athletics booster club collected $98,697 in revenue between August 2014 and December 2015 but deposited $78,364 into its accounts -- a difference of $20,332.33. The group has since stopped its operations, and the school administration has begun putting procedures in place to prevent future problems, deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said.

"What we have is a situation where we can identify that money came in, but we can't verify where it went," Gadd said. "We just can't figure out who misappropriated what."

Some of the details are specific, though.

For instance, the booster club had several unexplained lengthy delays in making deposits from money collected at game concessions, sometimes with no sales reported at all despite holding large events. More than $7,000 in reported collections were not deposited, the audit states, with another $13,000 estimated not reported and not deposited. The pattern suggests "possible fraudulent behavior," the document asserts.

"Cash is collected throughout the month from concessions, fundraisers, donations, student payments, and other activities but is deposited on an irregular and infrequent basis and not in full. This is a major cause for concern," according to the audit. "This practice violates every principle of good business practice and raises suspicion about the intention of the practice."

Other red flags listed in the report include:

- Coaches could not get regular detailed records of their team account balances.

- Lax methods for handling cash for change at concessions, with "no documentation that the fund was counted and verified by the parent volunteers."

- A raffle for a television costing $460 reported sales of $365 in tickets.

- No money was reported as being spent on football, the school's biggest sport, while 23 percent went to girls' basketball and 17 percent went to girls' volleyball.

"We're going to submit this audit to the Board, and then we're going to turn it over to the Sheriff's Office," Gadd said. "It may be possible the money was spent appropriately. But we have no record. We don't know. All we know is, there's a significant amount of money we can't account for."

Such incidents are not unheard of.

A Polk County charter school employee recently confessed to embezzling more than $100,000 from her school, purchasing things like a prom dress and false eyelashes with the money, according to the Ledger.

Nearly a decade ago, Pasco High School discovered that no money had been deposited from two years' worth of baseball and soccer game ticket sales. No one ever determined what happened to that estimated $20,000 in missing funds.

In a more successful case, the Sheriff's Office arrested the treasurer of Wesley Chapel High's booster club in late 2006 in connection with more than $20,000 in missing money. She was required to repay the funds.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2017 11:37am]

    

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