The former president of the West Seneca Youth Baseball Association was arraigned Monday in Erie County Court on charges he embezzled nearly $50,000 from the club.
Kevin Chodkowski, 46, faces two counts of grand larceny for allegedly making unauthorized withdrawals from the association’s bank account and five counts of falsifying business records for allegedly writing checks to “cash” and adding false information about how the money was being used.
Chodkowski, who was president of the youth baseball group from 2011 to 2014, pleaded not guilty.
Chodkowski made more than 150 withdrawals from the league’s bank account at ATMs near his home and near a local casino, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Jurusik said in court. When confronted by investigators about the withdrawals, Chodkowski admitted they were not authorized by the association’s board, Jurusik said.
The withdrawals totaled $39,960, Jurusik said.
The prosecutor said Chodkowski also diverted into his personal bank account $9,390 in cash collected for player registrations and fundraisers.
“When Mr. Chodkowski was confronted by our officers, he had no explanation for the withdrawals,” Jurusik told Judge Thomas P. Franczyk.
The probe also found checks written to “CASH” on which the names of sporting goods stores and invoice numbers were penciled in, he said.
“Those numbers were either fictitious or those invoice numbers pertained to other customers,” Jurusik said.
When asked about the checks, Jurusik said, Chodkowski told investigators he thought the checks were legitimate, but representatives of the baseball association said that was not the case.
“This is a classic embezzlement of over $49,000 from a youth sports organization. West Seneca was trying to raise money to build new sports fields for the kids,” Jurusik said in asking for $50,000 bail.
More than 500 players are in the youth baseball program, and they use fields in five different parks.
Chodkowski had been a driving force in an effort to build new diamonds at Fireman’s Park. The estimated cost comes close to $500,000.
Local publications quoted him saying the association hoped to get most of the money through private fundraising and sponsorships and not by taking money from taxpayers.
Jurusik said evidence shows Chodkowski lost more than $25,000 in a local casino and was in personal financial trouble. Other club funds were used to buy a subscription to Sirius Radio, he said.
Chodkowski resigned from the baseball association’s board at the end of 2014 and the new leadership hired a forensic accountant to examine its finances, according to a source familiar with the investigation. When the unauthorized activity was discovered, the group went to West Seneca Police and the District Attorney’s Office, which opened its own investigation in 2015.
Defense attorney Dominic Saraceno said Chodkowski has no criminal history and has roots in the community. He asked the judge to release Chodkowski on his own recognizance. Saraceno said Chodkowski cooperated with the investigation and tried “to negotiate a resolution to this matter” before the indictment.
Franczyk set bail at $25,000.