Indy investigation prompts inquiry into youth football program

Police cited former Milton Broncos president Matt King for felony embezzlement Tuesday following a criminal investigation prompted by the Milton Independent’s reporting.

Milton Detective Nick Hendry said police began looking into the Broncos days after the Independent published a story about the youth football program’s murky finances.

He wouldn’t specify how much King allegedly stole from the Broncos but said if convicted, King could face up to 10 years in prison and be fined up to $10,000 – the penalty for embezzling $100 or more.

King will be arraigned in September, police said.

Hendry declined to share further details until then but said organizations like the Broncos are prone to embezzlement if there aren’t enough checks and balances. King served as the Broncos’ president and treasurer and was the only person on the program’s bank account.

“That person can’t be held accountable,” Hendry said, speaking generally. “It’s definitely a crime of opportunity.”

Once a prized program, the Broncos have struggled to attract players in recent years, and interviews with people currently and formerly involved in the program suggest its financial oddities were an open secret.

Parents and league officials repeatedly questioned King’s vice grip on the program, concerns the then-president and his supporters instead blamed on parents who don’t get involved.

Last August, the IRS revoked the Broncos’ non-profit status because program leaders failed to submit the required financial disclosures for three straight years.

In lieu of the 990 forms, King agreed to provide the Independent with the Broncos’ bank statements.

“I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said in January.

Milton Broncos leadership discusses dissolving its two tackle teams during a program meeting on Thursday, May 31. (File: Courtney Lamdin | Milton Independent)

But he withheld pages from statements covering the Broncos’ 2017 season, including one from August, the program’s most profitable month. That single missing page includes $9,000 in transactions. Asked for the full accounting, King refused.

He then stopped responding to the Indy’s questions and hasn’t returned any subsequent calls over the last three months. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The Indy published its investigation the same day the Broncos held their first parent meeting since January. There, King and Broncos affiliates informed parents of a grand idea: Take the Broncos’ two older teams, which were struggling to attract enough players, and toss them to the school district.

To sweeten the deal, King said the program could donate more than half of the $7,800 left in its bank account. King, the only person authorized on the People’s United Bank account, couldn’t say how the team made that much money in the off-season. Bank statements showed the program had less than $2,000 as of last December, a full month after the season ended.

“There’s probably some checks that weren’t put in, I don’t know,” King said.

MPD opened its inquiry four days later and continued investigating into July. During that time, King attended two school board meetings to convince the trustees to assume ownership of the elder teams. Trustees delayed twice, demanding more information about the program’s costs.

King was a no-show when the board granted club status to a single 6-8 flag program at the third and final meeting. Rodney Tinker, the Broncos vice president, told the Independent afterward that King had resigned from the program.

Tinker has since assumed leadership and hopes to field a grade 1-4 flag team this season. He declined to comment on the police investigation until he learns more.

“I want to see the facts before I can make any type of comment or judgment,” he said.

News of King’s citation came as no surprise to former league president Glenn Cummings, who said there was “suspicion with the books” in Milton for years, prompting him to confront King in 2016.

“There was a lot of people looking in, but nothing was coming out,” he said. “Matt King didn’t give any answers. His answer was it was none of their business.”

There are approximately 14,000 youth sports organizations around the country that take in an annual revenue of about $9 billion, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Many operate with little to no oversight, relying on volunteers to manage financial operations.

Hendry noted embezzlement cases are difficult to investigate because the crimes often occur over a long period of time.

“It’s one of those crimes where you might do it a couple times and realize nothing happened, and then you continue to do it,” Hendry said.

He said the department’s investigation is ongoing.