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HUNTINGTON BEACH : Police Begin Probe as Bingo Profits Dip

Police for the past two weeks have been investigating the possibility that as much as $10,000 was stolen from proceeds of Huntington Beach High School’s bingo nights, officials say.

Officials said Friday that financial inconsistencies that touched off the investigation may have been attributable to other factors related to the weekly bingo games. The games raise money for a variety of the high school’s activities and programs.

But after financial examiners were unable to rule out the possibility that theft may have been involved, bingo officials turned the matter over to police.

The games usually attract about 200 players per week and raise from $1,500 to $3,000, officials said.

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Huntington Beach High School Booster Promotions Inc., a group of parents who since May have coordinated the Tuesday night games, became concerned after profits appeared to decrease during September and October, booster president Reno Bellamy said.

Since the amount of winning payoffs can vary dramatically from week to week, Bellamy said it is difficult to determine exactly how much revenues decreased. Based on the financial examinations, however, he said the group cannot account for a sum of money estimated to be between $1,200 and $10,000 during the two-month period.

The group had attributed the September figures to low attendance, he said. Parents became suspicious, however, when the turnout picked up in October and revenues did not.

Bellamy said the discrepancies may be explained by a large sum in payoffs coming early in the school year. But he also brought up the possibility that funds were stolen over several weeks.

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“It’s hard to believe that anybody would rip us off,” Bellamy said. “But we’re putting up the red flag in case somebody did.”

If money has been stolen, the thief would almost certainly have to be a parent volunteer helping to operate the games, Bellamy and school principal Gary Ernst said. “That’s what’s so frightening and sad about this,” Ernst said. “Why would a parent volunteer his time and energies for this, only to take away from it?”


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