Man charged with embezzling $40K from Westport Little League, softball teams
Updated 2:23 pm, Wednesday, May 28, 2014
A former member of the Westport Baseball & Softball Board of Directors has been charged with first-degree larceny for what police said was embezzling more than $40,000 in money and equipment from the organization, which oversees teams with about 1,200 youth players, including last year's title-winning Little League and softball teams
Police were contacted by leaders of Westport Baseball & Softball after their yearly internal audit, which "showed that over $40,000 worth of funds and equipment were unaccounted for," Penna said. "All of the items were found to emanate from one individual who was given authorization from the board to order equipment and submit expense reports for reimbursement."
Penna said the investigation then focused on Hlavac, who was interviewed by police detectives and eventually admitted to falsifying invoices, cancelling orders after submitting invoices for equipment so that payment was made to him by the league but the goods were never delivered, according to the report.
Hlavac also admitted to billing the league for clinics that were never held, having parents pay for hotel rooms and expenses for out-of-town games, police said, but then failed to pay them back even though he submitted invoices and was reimbursed by the organization.
He also is accused of selling league merchandise and keeping the money.
According to a website with the biographies of local youth coaches, Hlavac has been a coach at Staples High School, and was "responsible for the creation, development and vision of Westport Youth Travel Baseball 8-12."
He attended the University of Connecticut, according to the website, is "an ordained minister, certified teacher and child development specialist ... He is also currently working with several youth organizations as pro-bono parent and teen conflict mediator and life coach."
The scandal came to light in the aftermath of what had been a banner year for Westport Baseball & Softball in 2013.
The Little League team of 12- and 13-year-old players won both the state and New England championships, and advanced to the national championship game in the Little League World Series last August before losing to a team from Chula Vista, Calif.
And the 11-and-under Little League girls' softball team won the state championship.
News of the funding problem became public Tuesday night when Jeff White, chairman of the Westport Baseball & Softball Board of Directors, released a statement saying that the apparent misappropriation had been turned over to police.
He said the board began an internal investigation in the fall into allegations that one of the organization's board members misappropriated funds in "multiple ways for his personal gain."
He said the board member -- the suspect identified by police as Hlavac -- "resigned and is no longer affiliated with the organization," whose teams have children of all ages on their rosters. "We asked for his resignation," White said.
White said the funds taken by Hlavac would not hinder the organization's "operations and commitment in any way" to the youth ball teams.
However, he added, "We are obviously watching the expenses" to maintain playing fields for the coming season. The teams play on town-owned fields, but the organization is responsible for the cost of maintaining them, White said.
"Maintenance is our biggest expense," he said. "We have enough, but we might have to put off things like repairing fences."
White said since learning of the funding and equipment losses, in order to protect Westport Baseball & Softball for the long term, the organization has taken several remedial steps, including new financial procedures and tighter reviews and approvals for reimbursements and expenditures.
"Westport Baseball & Softball has a long and successful history of serving our community," White said. "We are proud of what our children have accomplished over the years, and the Board of Directors takes all aspects of our work seriously."
He said the organization will "continue to deliver all of the popular, broad-based programs that we always have."
Bond for Hlavac was set at $5,000 and he is scheduled to appear June 5 in Norwalk Superior Court.