League Tries to Survive After Embezzlement

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Sevierville, Sevier County (WVLT) - Ever since we first told you about the arrest of a little league president last week on embezzlement charges, the organization he once led is now facing new troubles and an uncertain future.

Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb is in our newsroom with more on what's going on.

Officials with the league say money was not only taken from them but from businesses who were solicited on their behalf without them knowing.

Now, the organization is trying to regain its good name as well as find a new place to play.

The community of New Center wanted to have a football little league of their own.

"I live in New Center. A bunch of us live in New Center. We just decided it would be the thing to do," says new league president Brian Bashore.

So last February, they found a coach, John Miniard.

"He knew a lot about little league football and we become believers of him," says Chris Maples.

Bashore says their new coach got what they believed to be a ten year agreement with Walters State in Sevierville where they set up their field and had their first season.

"One team actually went to win the championship with that one team. All three teams made the playoffs. We had a good year," Bashore says.

But late in the year, something began to seem a little odd. "There was money that wasn't getting deposited."

That later led to the arrest of their coach, John Miniard, on felony theft charges.

"I just hate it for his kids and all those kids it affected and it's affected a bunch of kids and the community," says Maples.

But Bashore says money was not only stolen from them, but from others using the league's name without their knowledge.

"Went out to the community and got donations and just kept it, pocketed it," says Bashore.

Authorities say the tally is more than $15,000.

But just when they thought it couldn't get any worse, that ten year contract to play was only for eight months because of expected construction at the college, a lie from Miniard.

"It was like getting punched in the gut," Bashore says.

"Are we still going to get the opportunity to come out and play football? I mean that's got to hurt anybody to hear that from any kid," says Maples.

But without a place to play and mounting bills, this little league group remains optimistic.

"We're going to play football. This league is going to carry on," Maples says.

The group is meeting Thursday night to try to address some of their major questions of where they will play and how to pay back money used to buy equipment.

As for John Miniard, he is now due in court March 2nd.


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