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Booster club starts from square one

By Cassandra Arsenault, Reporter, CassandraArsenault@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Mar 06 2014 12:17:56 AM CST
Updated On: Mar 06 2014 12:48:58 AM CST

Safeguards against embezzlement

SALINAS, Calilf.-- Debra Curtis is accused of embezzling $57,000 from the San Benito High School band fund, and now the band booster club is making changes so this never happens again. The booster club is completely separate from the school, and fundraising is done on a volunteer basis.

Curtis was a volunteer at the high school before she was elected treasurer for the booster club.

The school is trying to be sensitive with the alleged embezzlement, because the kids in the band are understandably very upset about what happened.

The president of the booster club, Anthony Ortega says one thing is for sure, the band's booster club needs immediate changes.

Investigators from the San Benito Sheriff’s Department say this kind of thing happens all too often.

“I have been at the sheriff's office for 12 years.I have seen a half a dozen of these cases. It’s happening all the time,” said Bryan Penny, a sheriff’s department detective.

The sheriff's office says two people should have been receiving the band's bank statements. If they had, they wouldn't have lost tens of thousands of dollars. Seniors like Kelsie Perry are left wondering if her last season in band is in jeopardy.
“You don't know it's real until it actually happens to you and I think that was the hardest thing,” said Perry.

Booster club president, Anthony Ortega, says Curtis illegally obtained an ATM card for their accounts. He says the club's 10-year-old by-laws allowed one person to be in charge of financials. Ortega said they found out the hard way that security measures they had in place weren't good enough. Parents, like Kelsie Perry’s dad, Scott, were stunned.

“One person should not have control over an account like that there should be several people overlooking, especially with a big amount of money. That’s a red flag.” Said Scott Perry.

San Benito Athletic Director Tod Thatcher, says another booster group, their Balers Backer booster didn't operate that way. It supports 23 sports, has raised $80,000 dollars since 2008, and has never had an issue. He said they don't allow ATM cards, checks are double signed by two directors other than the treasurer, and every month there is a detailed financial statement on the agenda for the public to review. Precautions that Kelsie and her father wish the band had taken.

“I'm afraid that money will be gone and I just don't think its right it was taken for personal gain,” said Kelsie.

According to Ortega, there will be some things that parents will have to pay out of pocket for this year.

“As parent you don't want to see your child hurt, when it hurts your child it hits home,” said Scott Perry.

The San Benito High School Band Booster has an ongoing fundraiser every Wednesday night called Bingo Night. It is always at the Elk’s Lodge in the Hollister airport complex. It starts at 7 p.m. All the money goes straight to the band.
Sheriff's investigators say Debra Curtis will be arraigned on April 5.