The treasurer of an Escondido-based youth soccer organization took about $27,000 from the group to help her failing business, an accounting and tax service, but hoped to return the money before it was missed, the woman’s attorney said Wednesday.
The admission came outside the courtroom after Paula Archie, 34, pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of forgery, one count of grand theft and one count of embezzlement. All are felonies.
Outside the courtroom, Archie’s attorney, Michael Berg, said his client took about $27,000 from the North County Youth Soccer Assn. and is now “full of remorse. She’s extremely distraught. No one feels worse than Paula.”
Volunteer directors of the soccer group, which has 1,800 members, discovered the money shortage earlier this month when a check bounced and the group’s bank told them the account was empty.
Directors thought they had about $50,000 in the bank, and, after their own initial investigation, contacted Escondido police. Archie was arrested Nov. 9 and released after posting $34,000 bail.
With Archie sitting at his side in the courthouse hallway, Berg said the money was taken to “support a business that was failing. She needed the business to pay rent on her house and to care for her son. It was a subsidy of her struggling personal business, done in anticipation of making a full and complete restitution before people missed the money.”
“But it caught up to her too quick,” he said.
Berg said the only discrepancy his client has with prosecutors is the amount of money alleged to have been taken. Although she concedes she took about $27,000, the court complaint lists $29,191 in missing funds.
Berg said he could not explain an earlier statement by Escondido police investigators that more than $45,000 was missing from the group’s bank accounts. Police said some of the missing money was cash from snack bar sales that were to have been deposited in the organization’s account. League officials have yet to complete their audit of the books.
The group’s funds, which are generated through registration fees, snack bar sales and business sponsorships in the community, are spent on trophies, uniforms, referees and travel to out-of-town competitions. The organization operates on an annual budget of about $80,000.
Prosecutors allege 21 instances of Archie forging the signature of another organization official in writing checks from the soccer group and depositing them into her own accounts.
“It’s a very uncomfortable situation for both sides,” Berg said. “It was an unfortunate decision on her part that the money wasn’t repaid in time. But her family supports her, she hasn’t lost any business clients, and the parents of the victims don’t really want to see anything really bad happen to her.”
John Snow, president of the soccer group, said he would not comment on the case on the advice of the group’s attorney, who himself was unavailable for comment.
The soccer season ended Nov. 18 with championship playoffs, and players at the time received their trophies thanks to financial contributions from the community.
Archie was ordered to return to court Dec. 13 for her preliminary hearing.
Two years ago, the then-president of the Fallbrook Youth Soccer Program, Joe McDowell, pleaded guilty after being accused of stealing about $21,000 raised through candy sales. The money was alleged to have been gambled away on horse races.