The request seemed innocent enough to the parents of Little League Baseball players from Nicoma Park.
Coach Brian Austin and a woman thought to be his wife met with the team in March 2011 and announced plans for a fundraiser.
The players would sell chicken, sausage and bacon and raise enough money to pay for equipment, tournament entry fees and a party at the end of the season.
Several players participated in the fundraiser and collected more than $2,400, court records show. An assistant coach named Curtis Anderson said he turned in an order along with a check for $913.25.
But instead of using the money for its intended purpose Austin paid his cable bill and interest on a vehicle sitting in a pawnshop, then lived for two weeks on the rest of the money, according to a probable cause affidavit,
Austin, the assistant coach told investigators, told players and parents he would need to collect the money “up front” and that anyone paying with a check would need to make the check out to his wife, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Anderson said he “found this odd but really thought nothing about it since Austin was the head coach,” Nicoma Park police reported.
A month later, the assistant coach discovered Austin and the woman had “spent the money to live on and thought they could pay it back before it was due,” documents show.
Anderson could not be reached for comment.
Court papers charging Austin with one count of embezzlement revealed that he “fraudulently misappropriated” more than $1,800 raised by the Outlawz baseball team.
Austin pleaded guilty Jan. 11 and was sentenced to 180 days in the Oklahoma County jail as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. A judge suspended the balance of Austin’s five-year sentence.
Issues with gambling
Dora Ezzell served as treasurer of the Mid-Del Tinker Kennel Club long enough for her gambling addiction to get the best of her.
Formed in 1960, the club encourages and promotes the advancement of all breeds of purebred dogs, according to its Facebook page. It also conducts dog shows, obedience trials, and sanctioned matches under the rules of the American Kennel Club Inc.
In May 2011, club president Billy Davison told authorities Ezzell had embezzled approximately $63,650.35 from club bank accounts between October 2007 and April 2011, according to a pre-sentence investigation report.
Bill Price, a club board member, told investigators Ezell admitted taking money from club accounts to cover gambling debts.
Ezzell, 67, of Oklahoma City, admitted having a gambling problem, and told authorities she would write checks to herself to try to cover the money she was losing at local casinos.
Either she would forge Davison’s name on a check if he had not already signed it or have him sign some blank checks just in case Ezzell “needed to pay a bill between club meetings,” court documents revealed.
In all, Ezzell admitted writing approximately 89 checks for fraudulent purposes, court documents show. According to the pre-sentence report, Ezzell said she thought she took approximately $25,000, adding that she “didn’t keep records of how much money she took.”
During the time she was treasurer of the kennel club she also worked as a customer service representative for a local credit union.
Attempts to reach Ezzell for comment were unsuccessful.
On eight different occasions, Ezzell admitted embezzling more than $1,000 but less than $25,000 from the club, court papers show.
“Started gambling for over 10 years and as I got into the habit (I) could not stop and borrowed money from the club which I was treasurer,” Ezzell told investigators in May.
In June 2011, she was charged in Oklahoma County District Court with 10 counts of embezzlement and one count of second-degree forgery.
Ezzell pleaded guilty in December to all 11 felonies but received no jail time.
A judge suspended all of Ezzell’s sentences. But as part of her plea deal, she must attend weekly meetings of Gamblers Anonymous meetings and pay nearly $64,000 in restitution to the club.
Ezzell, the club president told investigators, knowingly forged signatures and falsified records of the club and the financial institution she worked for “by filtering the embezzled monies through their accounting system.”
In addition to paying off gambling debts, Ezzell also used the money to take her family on vacations and other places, Davison said.
“This violation of trust has caused both my wife and I anger, disappointment, heartache and doubt,” Davison wrote in the pre-sentence report. “She was not just a club member or an acquaintance to my wife and I, but a close personal friend, so we thought.”