A husband and wife were implicated in Michigan after a neighbor, an accountant whose sons played for the baseball league, joined the board and scrutinized the books, leading investigators to a case that uncovered $300,000 in missing money.Times reporter Bill Penington got interested in these cases because someone embezzled money from his own kids' soccer team.
In Winslow, Me. (population 7,794), there were three theft charges against members of volunteer sports clubs in a four-year span, including one person who was charged with stealing from two clubs.
In Wisconsin, a self-described soccer mom confessed to another soccer mom about taking money from the local club, only to discover she was taking even more money.
A woman in Vermont was convicted of stealing from a fund established to honor a dead child who had been a club member.
The exposure of embezzlement leaves communities thunderstruck and wounded at the revelation of neighbors stealing from neighbors, friends cheating friends. The children of the accused are often best friends with the children of the accusers.
Two observations: First, as you can see from the Trump campaign and a thousand other such campaigns, we like to believe that we can trust our neighbors, at least the ones who look like us. Threats, we like to think, come from outsiders. But this is not so; unless you are involved in gangs or drug dealing, the person who murders you is overwhelmingly likely to be someone you know very well. If your house is burgled, the burglar probably lives within walking distance. And if there is embezzlement in your community, it will probably be committed by a neighbor trusted completely by everyone.
Second, the world is not divided into good people and bad people. All people are mixes of good and bad, and almost everyone will commit awful acts in the wrong circumstances. The reason youth sports teams have become such frequent targets of theft is that their simple organizations rely on trusting one or two people to do things right. Thefts like that $300,000 embezzlement in Michigan could almost all be prevented by simple annual audits, because people who know they are likely to be caught are much less likely to steal. But if you put $50,000 in the hands of people who have no oversight, many of them will start stealing.