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Healdsburg soccer league president accused of embezzling $30,000

Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 1:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:47 p.m.

For the second time in less than three years, a president of the Healdsburg youth soccer league has been accused of embezzling money from the organization.

League president Mitzi Giron, 30, of Healdsburg is suspected of stealing more than $30,000 from the organization during a span of about 18 months, Healdsburg Police Lt. Matt Jenkins said.

In August 2011, then-Healdsburg soccer league president Kyle Hoffman, 38, was sentenced to nine months in jail after being convicted of stealing $58,000 from the league.

Giron turned herself in to police Wednesday morning, Jenkins said. Officers booked her into the Sonoma County Jail after arresting her on suspicion of felony embezzlement and grand theft.

"It's bizarre, really bizarre," said Aziz Zhari, who briefly served as president after Hoffman was arrested. "That's too bad, really too bad."

He said he had served on the soccer league board with Giron, who also was a coach of the Healdsburg High School girl's junior varsity soccer team.

Giron was league vice president at the time of the Hoffman investigation and arrest. Police say they believe she began withdrawing money from the league bank account and using an account debit card for personal reasons starting in July 2011.

That was one month before Hoffman's sentencing.

Hoffman pleaded guilty to writing more than 70 unauthorized checks from league accounts while president from 2008 to 2010. The checks ranged from $60 to $3,180. During a two-month period, Hoffman dined at restaurants almost daily, made online purchases and spent money in bars, including a $113 tab at a downtown Healdsburg bar, prosecutors stated.

The loss of the $58,000 forced the league to the brink of bankruptcy. Youth sports leagues typically raise money through registration fees and fundraisers. Publicity from the case led to an outpouring of financial support for the league. It generated about $12,000 in donations, including contributions from Adidas and the San Jose Earthquakes professional soccer team.

In an interview with The Press Democrat following Hoffman's arrest, Giron said she did not want the league to disband as a result of the monetary loss he caused.

"I don't want this league to fold. I will do everything I can" to prevent it, she said.

Giron described playing in the Healdsburg Youth Soccer League 20 years earlier as a child. She said her brothers also went through the program.

Zhari on Wednesday said he thought safeguards had been put in place after Hoffman's arrest to ensure any checks written on the league bank account required signatures from at least two board members.

But after Hoffman's conviction, league officials apparently didn't set up sufficient protective bookkeeping procedures. "It appears there weren't significant checks and balances in place," Jenkins said.

Police said Giron's financial dealings targeted by investigators continued until late 2012 or early 2013. The lieutenant declined to discuss a possible motive, but said it appeared to be more of a hardship issue than a matter of extravagant spending.

League officials went to police Tuesday with their suspicions. They said they'd recently become aware of a problem and had been attempting to get some of the money back before they contacted police.

An undisclosed amount of money was recovered and Giron was cooperating with the investigation, Jenkins said.

She remained in jail Wednesday afternoon with bail set at $10,000.

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