Local News

Former president, treasurer of AP youth baseball association arrested

— The former president and treasurer of Avon Park Baseball Inc. were arrested Tuesday by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and charged with individually stealing thousands of dollars from the youth sports organization, as well as fraud.

Christopher Wayne Tolar, 37, the former president, 1819 Torrington Ave., Avon Park, and Sharon Lynette Tomlinson, 54, the former treasurer, no street address given, Avon Park, were both charged with third-degree grand theft and fraud involving less than $20,000.

Both held their positions during the 2012 season, the reports state.

Jarred Cloud, the president of Avon Park Baseball after Tolar, said questions were first raised during a board meeting for the organization. Some purchases of gas raised “red flags,” and that led to further investigation, Cloud said.

His successor as president, Bob Ford, who currently holds that position, said about the thefts, “the worst part of it is taking away from the kids.”

He said the thefts have had some effect on the organization struggling to have enough money to do what it needs to do in terms of facility maintenance and improvements.

The thefts gave the organization a “black eye,” and that may have contributed to fewer youth participants this year, he said.

But, Ford said, the organization is recovering.

“We’re cleaning everything up and trying to make it kid friendly,” he said. “I’m trying to do as much as humanly possible for the kids.”

Ford said for the organization to be successful, it needs to be fully embraced by the community.

“We’re not quite there yet,” he said.

In regards to the arrest of Tolar, the warrant accuses him of using “his assigned Avon Park Baseball Inc. debit card issued through Heartland National Bank for purchases and ATM transactions of a fraudulent nature.”

Based on reports from Tomlinson, the organization questioned numerous transactions, including gasoline purchases, a meal at Chili’s Bar and Grill, as well as one at Ranchero Cafe. The list also includes purchases at Wal-Mart in Sebring. The total of those purchases was about $2,100, the report said.

Other purchases questioned included a lawn mower, a window air conditioning unit and a “beer tap cooler system,” the report said.

Tolar was asked to “step down” as president in January 2013, the report said.

As for Tomlinson, the report said, she wrote several checks on the organization’s checking account to cash, as well as other checks that were questioned. The amount was over $2,000, the report said.

In some cases, Tomlinson told investigators that she wrote checks at the request of Tolar and that he told her the money was being used for purposes related to the organization. But the warrant noted that these expenditures were not included in the treasurer’s report to the board of directors.

Nor was a check totaling $611 that Tomlinson said she wrote to herself to compensate for money she paid for organization expenses, the report said. Instead her report indicated the check was for about $21, the report said.

The warrant said that it is “evident that Tomlinson intentionally deceived the Avon Park Baseball Inc. Board members by presenting faulty account balance information in the treasurer’s reports she prepared and presented.”