- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 10:52
- Published on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 10:52
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A King George couple has entered separate pleas on charges of embezzling funds from Hopyard Farms sports teams. April Connell, 39, entered an Alford Plea - or a plea of no-contest - to a charge of felony embezzlement involving the Hopyard Farms swim team.
Dale Connell, 43, entered a plea of guilty to misdemeanor embezzlement from the Hopyard Farms Little League. Both Connells were in court Thursday. Both were banned from participation with any youth sports teams, April for 10 years and Dale for three years.
April Connell was sentenced to 10 years in prison by Circuit Court Judge Joseph Ellis, who suspended all but one year of the prison sentence on the condition that April Connell pay $4,574.18 in restitution, receive a mental health evaluation and remain on good behavior for 10 years.
Dale Connell paid full restitution of the funds he was accused of embezzling prior to sentencing. He received a sentence of 12 months in jail, with all of the sentence suspended based on good behavior for three years.
Prosecutors and the King George Sheriff’s Office clearly regarded the felony charges against April Connell as the more serious. Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Pollard said Connell had deliberately siphoned funds from two Hopyard Farms swim team bank accounts over a period of almost 20 months.
“This was not a one-time, impulsive taking,” Pollard told Judge Ellis, “but a series of acts, a web of lies, manipulations, and deceitful conduct, committed over a period of almost two years, that allowed her to gain access to the Hopyard Farm swim team’s accounts and use their funds as her personal piggy bank.”
“The Commonwealth finds it hard to imagine a more fundamental violation of trust than stealing money, entrusted to you by virtue of your position as president of the board of directors on a children’s sports team,” Pollard declared.
“Because of the impact on the community, including the parents and other people affiliated with the swim team, especially the children, it is appropriate to send April Connell a message, that when that trust is violated, there will be consequences,” Pollard said.
Evidence was presented to Judge Ellis showing April Connell has used swim team funds, raised through registration fees, fundraisers, donations and concessions, to purchase personal items ranging from X-box equipment, to cigarettes and hair color products.
The embezzlement was discovered when swim team officials found that despite raising thousands of dollars, there was no money to pay coaches or to pay for awards for the children. Pollard told the court that Connell “was abrasive when confronted or questioned by parents about the missing funds.”
According to King George Commonwealth’s Attorney Keri Gusmann, Pollard “did a great job” in bringing Connell to justice. “So much so, that a defense attorney, who was in the courtroom on an unrelated matter, sought me out after court to tell me how impressed he was in Jennifer’s handling of the matter.”