Youth football league reports theft of $17,000, left with negative balance

Detectives are looking for the thief who stole $17,000 from a Collier County youth football and cheerleading league, leaving the organization with a negative balance as the fall season gears up.

Board members with the South Naples Pirates reported the theft to the Sheriff's Office last week, according to an incident report.

The group's secretary, Nicole DeGaetano, told investigators she learned of the missing money only when Wells Fargo notified the group of a negative balance and bouncing checks.

Vice President Carl Addison said the team has about 100 children who each paid $175 at the beginning of the year.

"Pretty much it's all gone and we have to start all over," he said. "We're asking the community to come out and support the kids. They're in desperate need."

The theft remains under investigation, but Addison said only one person had access to the Pirates' bank account. That person has since been voted off the board, he said.

The remaining members are left trying to figure out where they owe money and what items still need to be paid for.

According to Addison, most of the equipment is on loan and could conceivably be seized. The group also needs to pay for an upcoming trip to Tampa and rental fees for the practice space at Eagle Lakes Community Park, he said.

"Pretty much all the kids won't be able to afford it again. Some of the kids were scrapping up change, some are from low-income families," Addison said. "It was tough for them to come up with it to begin with."

The Pirates plan on doing several fundraisers, but it's unclear if they'll be able to rebuild the group's savings.

"Anything the community could give, we graciously would take it," Addison said.

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