Sunday, September 23, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg Little League missing $35,000 in dues, blames company that collected them

ST. PETERSBURG — For years, a youth baseball league has relied on a third-party company to help collect the fees families pay when registering their kids.

But board members from Northeast Little League noticed last week that the nearly $35,000 they say was paid never showed up in its account. They claim the vendor is improperly withholding the money and asked St. Petersburg police to investigate.

The Texas company that collected those fees is facing similar accusations from two other youth football leagues in Utah, according to a police report from a city there.

Now, two weeks into its fall season, the Northeast Little League is dipping into reserves and raising money to replace the dues paid, which pays for everything from uniforms and equipment to renting ballfields.

"The fact that we've received no money, that is a problem for us," said David Vann*, president of the Northeast league.

The league has used Jevin, a sports management software company, since 2012. Jevin says it helps youth and adult sports leagues manage aspects of their operations, from setting rosters and schedules, to collecting and dispersing registration fees.

Dan Ptak, president of the company, said this week that the issues in Utah and St. Petersburg are related. He said parents of children in a youth football league in northern Utah made similar claims recently and began seeking refunds of their registration fees through their credit card companies.

While he said he couldn't discuss details of the dispute, Ptak said the bank his company uses to handle the transactions put a hold on Jevin's account activity. And that has frozen disbursements to the Northeast Little League.

"Basically people submitted to their credit card company that they didn't get the goods or services that they paid for," Ptak said. "And (the bank) is still holding funds."

Through Jevin, Northeast parents register their kids for baseball, and the company takes 8 percent of the registration fee after it is processed before sending the remaining money back to the league. Vann said the Northeast league's agreement is that Jevin place registration fees into the league's account within 48 hours after a child registers.

"It's supposed to come to us frequently," he said.

Yet after the registration period ended a few weeks ago, the league noticed it hadn't received any of the $34,810.14 it said it was owed.

Registration fees account for 60 percent of the league's funding, Vann said, and without them, he fears the league will use up its reserves within a few months.

"The money has been basically taken from these parents," Vann said.

The league contacted the St. Petersburg Police Department and notified parents last week of the incident. Vann said the league has been told by St. Petersburg police that no crime happened in its jurisdiction, and because Jevin is based in Allen, Texas, it's up to the police department there to decide if there has been any wrongdoing.

St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez confirmed that her agency received the complaint and referred the league to authorities in Texas.

A spokeswoman for the Allen Police Department in Texas, when asked Friday if her agency was investigating the Northeast league's complaints, said she couldn't find information on the issue.

The hold on the Jevin's account occurred when parents of players of the Sky View Youth Football League in Utah tried to recover registration payments this summer.

Brianne Young, Sky View's director, said Jevin didn't give her league its $45,000 in registration fees until two weeks after her league contacted law enforcement in late June, and after parents went to their banks and credit card companies to get the fees back.

Ptak was adamant that his company distributed Sky View's money on time and said it has blown the situation out of proportion.

Young said Ptak initially wired fees intended for Sky View into the account of another football league in Ogden, Utah. She said she learned that the Ogden league also was waiting for registration fees from Jevin. Before parents started filing refund requests to their credit card companies, Ptak gave excuses for not providing the money, such as having to deal with a family emergency or traveling out of town, Young told police.

"Whoever else has been given this runaround needs to stand up against him, so he can't keep doing it to other people," Young said. "These are kids. This is their money. I have kids who play football who earned their (money) to register. He is, in essence, misusing that."

The Smithfield Police Department in northern Utah investigated Sky View's complaint about Jevin and Ptak. In a report obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officer said Ptak offered similar excuses that league officials said he had given them.

In the report, the Smithfield officer said Ptak wanted assurance that the money he mistakenly gave to the other league in Utah was accounted for before distributing Sky View's fees. The investigating officer ultimately concluded that the dispute was civil in nature.

Young and Northeast league officials said they fear that Jevin is improperly distributing to one league the money collected from families in other leagues. Ptak denied that.

Ptak said he's not sure when his company's account will be unlocked and when the fees will be given to the Northeast Little League. He vowed Jevin is doing its best to resolve the situation.

"We're kind of caught in the middle of the issue with Northeast Little League," Ptak said. "Funds are being held by the merchant bank. If they don't give them to us, then we can't forward those on."

Brian McClintock, a spokesperson for Little League International, said cases like the Northeast league's don't come up often. The organization tries to caution local leagues to work with transparent companies. There isn't much the organization can do, however, when financial issues such as this arise.

"We do provide a lot of (educational) resources to them," McClintock said. "But ultimately, it is the responsibility of the local league when it comes to operations of this matter."

Meanwhile, Northeast Little League waits for its money.

On Tuesday, Vann stood in the outfield of one of the league's ballparks, coaching players on how to properly catch with their baseball mitts. He said he understands how the issue in Utah is affecting his league's wait for its money. It doesn't make the wait any less frustrating.

"That's really not a concern of ours," he said as he tossed a baseball to kids. "We paid our money, and we need our money back."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact LaVendrick Smith at [email protected] or (727) 893-8644. Follow @LaVendrickS.

* Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect the correct last name of David Vann, president of the Northeast league.

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