Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Former Baseball Coach Sentenced For Embezzlement

It's interesting that folks who embezzle from schools get prosecuted all over San Diego County, but Chula Vista Elementary School District embezzlers get a pass. The PTA president of Castle Park Elementary was arrested for embezzling $20,000, but Bonnie Dumanis chose not to prosecute. Perhaps Bonnie didn't want to bring attention to all the problems at Castle Park Elementary. That certainly wouldn't have helped Cheryl Cox politically.

Former Baseball Coach Sentenced For Embezzlement
Larry Rinehart, 59, Guilty Of Embezzling Funds From Monte Vista High School
Channel 10 News
August 30, 2011

EL CAJON, Calif. -- A former Monte Vista High School baseball coach who stole $16,000 in team funds, which he used to gamble at county casinos, was sentenced Tuesday to 240 days in jail.

Larry Rinehart, 59, was convicted Aug. 2 of two felony counts related to embezzling team funds from 2005 to 2007.

In addition to the jail term, El Cajon Judge Lantz Lewis sentenced Rinehart to five years probation and ordered him to take anti-theft classes and stay away from casinos. He initially faced as much as three years in prison before Lewis opted for the lower sentence.

"You abused your position of trust," Lantz said to Rinehart, citing what he called "repeated acts of deceit," including more than 100 transactions involving team money that Rinehart used for gambling at local casinos.

The judge said he had to balance the criminal act against the fact that Rinehart spent his entire adult life teaching and coaching young people, and had no prior criminal record.

Rinehart did not speak at his sentencing, but his attorney read his words aloud: "To the community, students, administration and staff of Monte Vista High School, I apologize to all of you for betraying your trust."

The statement went on to say how Rinehart has paid a steep price for the decisions he made, losing his teaching credentials and being forced to resign from Mount Helix High, where he taught money matters and personal finance classes. It also said he will get help for both his depression and gambling "issues."

Rinehart's attorney argued that he should get probation, but Deputy District Attorney Daniel Shim argued that prison time was warranted because this was a long-term embezzlement scheme, impacting dozens of players on his team.

A representative for the Grossmont Union High School District read a statement to the judge: "As one of the largest school districts in the nation, I believe it is incumbent upon me as a representative of the district to let this court know that at any time, the loss of public funds creates a crisis it has a deep financial impact on student programs and results in a lack of confidence in the larger school community, which hurts all of us deeply. And in a time of fiscal crisis -- like that which we are currently experiencing -- the effect becomes even more profound on our students' opportunities."

The statement concludes: "It is our hope that all the monies will be returned as quickly as possible. Thank you for acting on behalf of our kids."

Rinehart was ordered to pay the money back in increments of at least $100 per month after his release from jail. At that rate, Shim said it would take 41 years to get full restitution.

Outside the courtroom, two parents of former players were disappointed with the sentence.

"It doesn't really send the message I was hoping it would send," said parent Kirk Gentry. "He's definitely betrayed the trust of the public, of the players, the school, the school district. It's very disappointing that they only gave him a short period of time in custody."

Gentry was one of the parents who helped investigators track the money, which he said Rinehart had placed in a hidden account.

Katherine Vance said a stronger sentence was warranted and she wants the embezzled money returned as soon as possible.

"I think that he should have to sell his house and pay back all the money," said Vance.

Rinehart's wife, Margaret, now faces two criminal counts of receiving stolen property and aiding and abetting a criminal act. Her trial date is fast approaching.

Prior to his arrest, Rinehart taught accounting, money matters and personal finance classes at Helix High School. He coached baseball at Monte Vista High from 2003 to 2007.

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