The board of a youth soccer club in San Marcos caught the president of the group with his hand in the cookie jar, then put together a city-approved secret repayment plan.
And the tattletale was a rival soccer group, angry over the personal politics — not letting their teams use the fields operated by the soccer club, according to a board member from the victimized club.
A story from the NBC television affiliate in Austin reports that Erik Svendsen, former president for the San Marcos Area Youth Soccer Organization, stole $71,000 over a three-year period ending in 2017.
Instead of reporting him, Svendsen’s colleagues arranged a secret agreement under which he would repay the group over a two-year period with no interest.
According to the agreement, Svendsen’s debt included numerous cash withdrawals, sometimes in the thousands. It also included a $13,000 loan payment, two animal hospital payments, haircuts, payment to a local flight school, hotel stays in San Marcos and a stop at a sports bar.
The board knew that someone could come forward to divulge the repayment plan, board member James Neff, told Texas Monitor. Another soccer club was the source of the tip that led to the NBC report, he said.
“It wasn’t someone angry at our soccer club, it was someone mad at the city,” said Neff, a criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service in Austin.
He said the alleged malfeasance came about through a lack of checks and balances. The board under Svendsen was not collegial, and was not the reason for the undisclosed theft, but instead was motivated by a need to get repaid. The $71,000 represents about 15 percent of the club’s total revenue for the years 2014-2017, according to a review of the soccer group’s tax returns.
The club’s treasurer resigned in 2014, opening the door to Svendsen becoming both the treasurer and president, said Michael Colca, who was on the board when the club formed in 2000 and left as president in 2006.
Colca came back briefly after Svendsen’s theft was discovered to help right the ship.
“We decided that if we were ever going to get our money back, our best course of action was to draw up a contract that [Svendsen] can make good on and also implicated him and held his feet to the fire,” Colca told The Texas Monitor.
The board took the plan to the city as well as the club’s parent organization, which believed that keeping it quiet would provide the best chance to fully recover the money.
“Let’s just say we would tell everybody about this,” Colca said. “Now, what are our chances of getting our money back? They key was keeping the organization running without causing a whole lot of negative press.”
Instead, the key to the news report was “someone who was disgruntled and making a story about it.”
The club’s revised tax returns, completed after the theft was discovered, show that Svendsen owed money to the group starting in 2014, which shows up as “assets due.” The balance went from zero in 2014 to $58,643 on 2016’s return.
According to the NBC affiliate story, “the city and Hays County paid $4.5 million to build the fields [the club] uses. There are signs posted along the fields warning the public that using the fields without [the club’s] or the city’s permission could lead to criminal charges.”
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].