A Marana man who state officials say embezzled more than $83,000 from a youth football organization is asking for more time to prepare for his sentencing, which is scheduled for Monday morning.
Steve Leslie Marshall Jr. entered into a plea agreement in March in which he admitted taking $8,000 from the Marana Broncos, according to court documents. Marshall was indicted last September on eight felony charges, including theft, forgery and fraud, with initial court filings saying he misused more than $50,000 of Broncos’ money while serving as president from 2009 until March 2017, when he abruptly stepped down.
Broncos’ board members reported Marshall to police two months later after discovering irregular financial activity.
They told police during the investigation that they believe Marshall was responsible for roughly $90,000 worth of debit-card charges, checks and unpaid debts, according to the Oro Valley police report on the incident.
The Marana Broncos are one of 14 associations that make up the Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation, a nonprofit organization that fields football and cheer teams for kids as young as 5. Each association is made up of multiple teams, with thousands of Pima County boys and girls participating each year.
Marshall’s indictment followed a 16-month investigation by Oro Valley police and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. After Marshall’s abrupt departure, board members and the new president attempted to access the Broncos’ bank account, but were told that only Marshall had access to it. Marshall had a debit card and checkbook tied to the account, violating federation and Broncos’ rules.
Broncos’ bylaws require that there be two signers on each check written out of the team’s bank account. Marshall, however, frequently wrote single-signature checks and checks made out to “cash,” court documents show.
Court documents submitted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for restitution purposes show that Marshall wrote more than $66,000 worth of checks made out to “cash” starting in March 2014. He also made $16,858 worth of fraudulent debit-card purchases, documents show. Some checks were written to Broncos’ vendors, documents show, but every check made out to “cash” was for a round number. Marshall closed the bank account the day before he stepped down.
“Not only is there no explanation for utilizing cash instead of writing a check directly to a vendor, there is no reason not to utilize the team’s checkbook,” the Attorney General’s Office said in the documents.
The checks were used extensively until Marshall requested a debit card for the Broncos’ account, when the check-writing stopped altogether.
Marshall used the debit card 10 times at an Oro Valley dentist, paying $139 each time, court documents show — adding that some members of the Broncos’ board recall one of Marshall’s family members needing dental work.
Court documents also show that Marshall also used the debit card to pay for auto repairs and airline tickets and for purchases at stores in California. Marshall took a vacation there in August 2016.
In June, July and November 2016, Marshall made purchases at Walmart on the debit card in the amounts of $1,451.40. Marshall’s monthly rent was $1,450 at the time, with the extra $1.40 being charged by Walmart as a service fee for money orders, according to court records.
Marshall and the Broncos came to a restitution agreement in May. He agreed to reimburse $30,000 to the Broncos, with the amount of each payment subject to negotiation .
This isn’t the first time Marshall has been accused of stealing money from a federation group.
He was sued in 2005 in connection with the theft of roughly $10,000 from the Oro Valley Dolphins, the team he was volunteering with at the time, Pima County court records show. Marshall settled the lawsuit for a portion of the money owed.
Marshall’s sentencing is set for 11 a.m. He’s facing up to 12½ years in prison should Superior Court Judge Christopher Browning hand down an aggravated sentence. Marshall is also eligible for probation.
On Friday, Marshall’s attorney filed a motion to continue the sentencing for two weeks, saying that he received a probation department report on Thursday afternoon that contained “several factual errors.” The motion says Marshall would like to correct the errors and provide documentation, and is also taking exception to “the characterization of some of his statements,” adding that the response will require additional time.
A victim’s representative is planning to appear in court Monday to make a statement, which Marshall doesn’t object to, the motion says, asking that the remainder of the hearing be continued. As of Saturday, the motion itself and any related court orders were unavailable in the case’s online file.
In an April sentencing memorandum, the state requested Marshall receive prison time, listing several aggravating factors.
“The case is significantly more offensive than many other embezzlement cases, due to the fact that it quite literally took money from children,” the memorandum said.
During his time as Broncos’ president, Marshall filed tax returns stating that the organization made less than $50,000. But from 2014 through 2016, the Broncos took in nearly three times that amount each year.
Marshall’s filing of false tax returns could have cost the Broncos their tax-exempt status, which would have devastated the organization, the memorandum said.
“His embezzlement jeopardized organization functioning and also jeopardized the extent to which parents would trust the organization with their children,” the memorandum said.
Marshall’s 2005 lawsuit with the Dolphins should “have been the incident that inspired him to be careful with money management for youth football,” according to the memorandum.
“Without passing judgment on the validity of the Dolphins’ claim, at a bare minimum, it should have been a red flag to inspire (Marshall) to better behavior,” the memorandum said. “Instead, it became worse.”
The Attorney General’s Office has asked for the full term of seven years probation, should the judge decide against prison time.
Marshall’s attorney did not immediately respond to an Arizona Daily Star request for comment.