Police: Treasurer pilfered $8,800 from SHS Athletic Hall of Fame

Police: Treasurer pilfered $8,800 from SHS Athletic Hall of Fame

The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — Police have filed charges against the former treasurer of the Stonington High School Athletic Hall of Fame Committee after an investigation into missing funds led police to discover he had written 113 checks to himself from the committee’s fund totaling more than $8,800 between April 2013 and February 2017.

Kenneth M. Wilcox, 78, turned himself in to Stonington police Sunday after being notified of a warrant for his arrest on third-degree larceny charges. Wilcox, of 45 Fellows St., Pawcatuck, was released on a $1,500 non-surety bond, according to court records, and is due for arraignment in New London Superior Court on July 31.

“It is an unfortunate incident, but we have already taken several measures to make sure this never happens again,” Stonington High School Principal Mark Friese said. “This is a strong community and a strong, volunteer committee, and I am confident we will get past this and come out stronger.”

Wilcox became the target of a larceny investigation in early April after financial improprieties were discovered when he was asked to resign from the committee following an unrelated Feb. 21 arrest for an alleged attempt to solicit a man from his car in downtown Pawcatuck. Friese confirmed that school officials made an immediate request for Wilcox to resign, and he has not been present on school property since the February arrest.

The February case remains active, according to court records, but has been sealed pending disposition.

The committee, concerned about the nature of the February arrest, requested that Wilcox immediately turn over his checkbook, according to Friese. A subsequent audit, according to the arrest affidavit, led committee members David Erskine, who served as Stonington’s former police chief, and Sam Agnello to discover records of multiple transactions that were not related to Wilcox’s responsibilities within the organization.

Further investigation revealed that between April 2013 and February 2017, 113 checks were written to and cashed by Wilcox, each made out for an even dollar amount ranging from $20 to $250. In all, $8,890 in unapproved funding was spent from the account.

The account is operated by the all-volunteer committee and is not part of the annual budget for Stonington schools. The account is funded through various fundraisers and donations, officials said, and is used to offset committee costs, as well as for the operation and maintenance of the SHS Hall of Fame. In all, the committee typically writes about 10 checks per year.

According to the affidavit, only Wilcox and former committee member James Ballato have served in the capacity of treasurer since the committee’s inception in 2003. Wilcox took over responsibilities from Ballato in 2010 when Ballato resigned as a result of health issues. Wilcox had been a volunteer member of the committee since its inception.

Officers spoke with Wilcox, who informed them that he would occasionally write a check to make sure the “account remains active” and said that every year, he also wrote himself a check that he held in his personal account to make sure the committee had funds at the start of the next fiscal year. But, police said, bank documents showed the money was never returned to the Hall of Fame fund.

“He made no mention of or offered no explanation about when he would return the money to the account,” according to the affidavit, which was written by Officer Herbert Barrell and detailed a voluntary interview between Wilcox and investigators on April 20.

“I also asked why, if he was doing this just to show activity, he sometimes cashed two checks in one day. He was silent,” the affidavit said.

Following the interview, police conducted further financial review before applying for an arrest warrant. The warrant was signed on July 14, court records show.

Stonington police confirmed that Chief J. Darren Stewart, who is related to Wilcox, recused himself from any part of the investigation. Police declined further comment on the case because it remains active in the Connecticut judicial system.

Wilcox could not be reached for comment Monday.

Friese said the incident has already led to change in policies for the organization. The committee has implemented changes to enhance review efforts and has increased oversight of the account. He said the committee has approved and will implement policies similar to those designed to protect accounts within the school budget.

“This has not impacted our ability to operate,” said Friese, who noted the committee would be seeking full restitution for its losses. “We are not sitting comfortably, but we have what we need to move forward. This is a dedicated group of volunteers, and I am confident we will be able to recover.”



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