Former treasurer of Columbus Youth Soccer Club charged with embezzling about $129,000 from club

A former treasurer of the Columbus Youth Soccer Club is accused of embezzling about $129,000 in a three-year span from the nonprofit recreational league serving around 1,400 players.

Joy Perez turned herself in to Columbus police Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. after a warrant was issued for her arrest Monday. She is charged with theft by taking. Columbus Recorder’s Court Judge Michael Cielinski set her bond at $130,000 but reduced it to $10,000, said her lawyer, Richard Hagler. He said she maintains her innocence and posted bond later Tuesday. She is scheduled for a hearing in Recorder’s Court at 9 a.m. Wednesday, but Hagler said she waived the hearing and a not-guilty plea will be entered on her behalf.

Hagler declined to comment further about the case.

CYSC officials noticed in January discrepancies in accounts and financial reports, said club president Brett Spillers. When they couldn’t be resolved, Perez resigned, he said.

CYSC contacted the Columbus police, who recommended bringing in a forensics accountant, Spillers said, and the accountant’s report came back last week. He praised the Columbus certified public accounting firm of Behar, Reid, Melton, Brown & Taylor, as well as the police, for their work.

The embezzlement accusation amounts to a significant chunk of money taken from the club, which has an annual budget of around $200,000, officials said. As a result, a $100,000 project to build a second set of restrooms, planned for the lower fields, will be delayed, they said.

But the practices and games and tournaments won’t be affected, they insist.

“We want everyone to understand soccer still is going on as usual out here,” CYSC vice president Linda Glass said in the club’s office at the nationally renowned Woodruff Farm Soccer Complex, 3151 Woodruff Farm Road. “But we have regrouped and changed some financial processes. You assume everyone is here for all the right reasons.”

The alleged theft has been a wayward kick in the leg — without a shin guard to cushion the blow.

“We feel betrayed,” Spillers said. “She stole not just from the club but also from all those kids.”