Embezzler who stole from Ann Arbor hockey kids deserves maximum sentence
Mike Reid started playing pond hockey when he was five years old, lived and breathed the sport while he was growing up and, at 50, thinks his Wednesday night adult league games are still the coolest thing going.
He’s not alone.
For 58 years here, there have been countless numbers of parents who have worked in some way to pass their love of hockey down to the next generation through their participation in the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association.
Moms have sewed names on the backs of more than 2,000 jerseys in that time. Dads have volunteered as coaches for hundreds of teams. Together, they scraped nickels and dimes together over the decades to raise money for the non-profit organization.
“There are many people who have a true love of the game,” said Reid, the organization’s vice president since May. “The fact we can get a handful of NHL or Division I college kids from our program is great but the end game is the vast majority of participants are people who just enjoy the game of hockey.”
That joy, passed down in some cases through three generations of Ann Arbor families, has been threatened not by the recession ravaging so many long-time community pillars, but by something far more sinister.
In February, authorities charged Kimberly Knight, a 45-year-old volunteer bookkeeper for the organization, with raiding AAAHA’s coffers, embezzling $934,362.76 over a period of two-and-a-half years.
Knight pled guilty to felony embezzlement charges on June 8, and faces 10 to 15 years in prison. She will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Washtenaw County Trial Court.
Here’s to hoping she receives the maximum sentence.
Knight didn’t just skim a little off the top, nor can her theft be chalked up to a one-time lapse in judgment or moment of weakness.
Authorities say she wrote 50 checks to herself over two years from AAAHA’s accounts, money that accounted for 98 percent of the hockey organization’s operating assets and reserve funds.
She stole from kids, and she cleaned them out.
Heartlessness of her actions aside, the consequences of her actions will be very real this fall. Not only is the organization’s goal of someday building its own rink relegated to a laughable pipe dream, the theft will force the association to cut the number of teams it fields, ice time it purchases and amount of financial aid it can offer families already strapped by job losses and tightening budgets.
AAAHA owes more than $100,000 to the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. It owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $60,000 for penalties associated with Knight’s neglect in filing tax returns.
“To say our operational margins are razor thin would be an understatement,” Reid said.
It’s not clear that the organization will withstand the destruction Knight has wrought. In a victim’s impact statement submitted to Judge Melinda Morris, who will preside over the sentencing, the AAAHA’s Board of Directors wrote “if significant financial restitution is not immediately forthcoming, AAAHA will almost certainly fold at the end of the 2009-2010 season, if not before.”
Knight’s attorney, Michael Le Gris, said in June his client had already returned $221,000 to the hockey association in 2007; The Board of Directors says it hasn’t seen a dollar.
Even if Morris orders Knight to immediately re-pay the amount stolen, there’s some of it that just won’t be coming back.
While the rest of southeast Michigan learned to live with the throes of recession, Knight frittered away parts of her plunder on such items as a family vacation and the leasing of a backhoe for her personal business. She spent thousands on ummm charm bracelets.
Cost of Knight’s pair of 14-karat white gold diamond earrings: $3,890.
Cost of her new 2005 Cadillac Escalade: Somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000.
Cost of leeching onto a cherished community institution and being the parasite that bleeds it dry?
Well, there are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s prison time.