A local nonprofit football and cheer association told police its treasurer stole $20,000 after an April 2018 Star story detailed tax issues in the league.
The investigation, which was opened in May 2018, is still ongoing, according to a Tucson Police Department spokeswoman. No arrests have been made.
In April 2018, the Star wrote an article detailing how two Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation associations had lost their nonprofit status for failing to file tax returns three years in a row. TYFSF bylaws require that all associations maintain nonprofit status.
As a result of the issues with those two associations, which were brought to the league’s attention by the Star, TYFSF changed its rules, requiring each association to use a designated local accounting firm to prepare their tax returns each year.
The article also identified some irregularities within one association’s most recent tax return. The Southwest Rams’ 2015 return detailed several itemized expenses, but also claimed $91,076 in undisclosed “other expenses.” The year before, the Rams had reported $35,327 in other expenses; $49,535 in other expenses were reported on the 2013 return, according to documents filed with the IRS.
At the time, the Star was unable to reach a representative of the association for comment.
Ten days after the Star’s article ran, Rams president Marcos Romero and vice president Richard Drow walked into a Tucson Police Department substation and told the officer at the desk that they suspected the association’s treasurer had stolen roughly $20,000, according to the TPD report into the incident obtained by the Star through a public-records request.
Romero and Drow told police “they both began investigating the matter on their own” after the article’s publication, and that after a “lengthy review of banking records” they had come to the conclusion that their treasurer was stealing.
The Star does not identify suspects in a crime unless they have been arrested.
The last update in the case is an August 2018 note from an officer saying that she ran the suspect’s name through two police record databases and found “prior reports.” The sentence that details the nature of the reports was also redacted.
Romero told the Star that he couldn’t talk about the investigation, saying that he didn’t want to jeopardize the outcome. Several members of the Rams organization met with the Star Thursday to discuss the association’s financial situation.
As soon as the Rams’ board found out about the missing money, they acted quickly, removing the treasurer from her position and taking all materials related to the associations’ finances, Romero said.
“(The Rams board) cooperated fully with law enforcement; they contacted law enforcement to make sure that anything that rises to the level of a crime is fully investigated,” said OJ Flores, a Rams coach. “They put safeguards in place, they elected a new treasurer who’s doing a really good job and hired an outside accounting firm who’s handling the books.”
A new treasurer
Since June 2018, treasurer Tashara Jordan has been working closely with the association’s accounting firm Bottom Line Tax, Accounting and Business Services. The Rams organization is made up of 10 teams, each of which has a business manager who oversees the team’s finances.
Jordan said she can call on Bottom Line “at any point in the day and they respond with guidance on what we need to do to make sure we’re fully protected.”
Jordan and the firm began by going through the association’s books from the previous several years and worked to get the Rams current with the IRS. Bottom Line advised Jordan about safeguards to put in place; as a result, the Rams now require two signers on all checks and dual-verification on cash deposits.
Any time a team does a fundraiser where cash is involved, the team’s business manager and two witnesses that don’t hold a leadership position with the team — like parents — are required to sign off on the counting of the money.
“They then bring it to me and we re-verify, where they sign off on it, I sign off, I write a receipt to them and the deposit receipt is stapled to the deposit signatures,” Jordan said.
Jordan sends Bottom Line copies of the association’s profit and loss statements every month and they discuss the association’s finances quarterly, so that the firm has everything they need come tax season.
Jordan, who has been with the association for more than 20 years, said the Rams are her passion.
“I’m not an accountant — I’m a volunteer treasurer and I happen to count money for my job,” Jordan said. “When (the association) asked me to step in, it wasn’t even a thought.”
More tax troubles
The police investigation into the Rams’ missing money isn’t the association’s only trouble at the moment: In May, the Rams’ nonprofit status was revoked after the IRS flagged the association for failing to file tax returns for three consecutive years.
Jordan, the treasurer, said “something got missed” when the Rams were trying to submit the missing 2016 and 2017 returns. The Rams and Bottom Line have to explain to the IRS why the taxes weren’t filed on time; Jordan said the previous treasurer failed to file them.
“The current status of revoked is not reflective of what’s happened since we discovered it,” Flores said. “It’s just going over all the paperwork, dotting all the i’s and crossing the t’s and trying to fill some of those discrepancies that were discovered when they found this stuff out. Dealing with the IRS is never easy.”
The Rams have been in contact with TYFSF president Julius Holt about the tax situation. Holt said the association is “trying to do everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Volunteers say it’s worth repairing the damage because of the impact that youth football has on their kids. TYFSF serves players and cheerleaders ages 5 through 15.
“With our organization, truly them coming to the park speaks volumes, because the park keeps them out of trouble,” Jordan said. “As a board, we gotta make sure that we have that foundation and outlet for the kids. It’s first the kids and everything else later.”
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at email@example.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt