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Copyright 2014 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
BRUCE VIELMETTI, bvielmetti@journalsentinel.com Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Two former officers of a Waukesha County youth soccer club appeared in court Monday on charges of embezzling more than $80,000 from the organization.

Barbara E. Olson, 42, of Burlington was the treasurer of the New Berlin Soccer Club. A criminal complaint charges that she wrote $12,690 in unauthorized checks from the club's account to cover personal expenses from February 2008 to January 2010.

After the club's board discovered financial irregularities in the spring of 2013, Olson told police she tried to confess to club president Melanie Gretzon in late 2009 but was told the club didn't want to make a big deal out of the offense, and to just resign. Olson told police she never heard from anyone else in the club.

No wonder. According to prosecutors, Gretzon, who last year was both president and treasurer, was embezzling on her own, taking more than $70,000 from the New Berlin Soccer Club and a Milwaukee Kickers ac- count from August 2009 through March of last year.

According to her criminal complaint, Gretzon, 42, of New Berlin, spent the money on everything from food, gasoline and pet supplies to her mortgage, utility bills and spa services.

There were charges to places like Home Depot, Gander Mountain, and nfl.com, as well as payments to other soccer clubs-apparently fees for some players - and to Toyota Park, where the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer plays home games.

Olson is charged with one count of theft in a business setting, and Gretzon faces four counts of the same felony, plus one misdemeanor theft count for the $1,619 officials say Gretzon took before being caught last year.

Olson was released on a $7,500 signature bond after a court appearance Monday.

Gretzon was released on a $10,000 signature bond, and ordered to have no contact with anyone at New Berlin Soccer Club, or Olson, and to neither work nor volunteer for any organization or business in a financial capacity.

Neither woman's attorney returned calls seeking comment Monday.

The New Berlin Soccer Club is one of 17 regional clubs that operate under the umbrella of Milwaukee Kickers. Kickers executive director Alvaro Garcia-Velez said it was fortunate that the local club had the affiliation and support of the larger organization.

"It could have been a lot worse," he said, noting that the lost funds didn't directly affect programming for kids at New Berlin Soccer Club but were taken from accounts that were meant to pay referees and tournament fees.

"Any time you lose $82,000, it's a big deal," Garcia-Velez said, "but we were blessed that it took place over a number of years, and from an ancillary account."

Garcia-Velez said the Kickers were lending money to New Berlin when the club was coming up short for several years. He said last April, someone with the bank where the New Berlin Soccer Club account was kept noticed something amiss, and called a club director who was the co-signatory on the account, who saw some "obviously inappropriate" expenditures. Garcia-Velez said the clubs have made claims on insurance, and hope restitution may cover any remaining losses.

In the meantime, the Kickers have imposed major changes on how the regions report financial information to the Kickers. All account statements now go monthly to the Kickers' main office at Uihlein Soccer Park where they get reviewed and are subject to occasional audit.

"It's more layers of reporting, more work. We had to hire more staff, but it's been dynamite," he said.

Both Olson and Gretzon were longtime volunteers whose children had played with New Berlin Soccer Club.

"You always have the best intentions from most volunteers," Garcia-Velez said. "Ninety-nine point nine percent are honest."

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February 26, 2014

 

 
 

 

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