SAN DIEGO -- A former treasurer for Vista Pop Warner Football and Cheer pleaded guilty Thursday to five felony counts, including grand theft and identity theft, for embezzling more than $100,000 from the organization's accounts.
As part of the plea deal, Rachel Marie Owens, 41, agreed to pay back the $114,395 she stole from the league her son played in.
She was arrested in late February at the Guajome Park Academy in Vista, a charter school where she teaches math.
Owens was the treasurer for the Pop Warner Football and Cheer between October 2013 and November 2015. The sheriff’s department Cyber Financial Crimes Unit began investigating accusations of theft in November 2015.
In early January, several parents with Vista Pop Warner approached Team 10 claiming that thousands of dollars they had raised for expenses were gone.
Owens' attorney said his client acknowledge that she made a terrible mistake. Her attorney said Owens took the money because it is expensive to live in California.
According to Owens, all the money is gone.
Ken Elliot, a lawyer who also coaches a team in the league, told Team 10 that the incident began when vendors started calling board members asking why they weren't being paid for services. As the board began to investigate, they discovered thousands of dollars were missing and checks were bouncing.
Before getting law enforcement involved, Elliott drafted a letter to Owens, whom he suspected of using the funds for personal gain. At the time, Team 10 chose not to identify Owens because she had not been charged with a crime.
The letter demanded the money be returned, as well as any receipts and banking records. Elliott gave Team 10 a copy of the letter. Elliott claims Owens denied taking any money. She said she didn't have any records.
Team 10 was shown several of the checks, totaling $93,700, that were written as "reimbursements" to that same board member. One of them, for $5,000, was written two days before Christmas.
When Team 10 contacted Owens in early February, she called the claims "a witch hunt" and said in a series of emails that she had done nothing wrong. She told Team 10 that executive board members within the Vista Pop Warner organization "overspent."