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West Seneca Baseball leader sentenced to weekends in jail in embezzlement case

The president of the West Seneca Youth Baseball Association who stole close to $50,000 from the organization was sentenced Tuesday to spend weekends in jail for the next three months.

Kevin Chodkowski, 46, of West Seneca already has repaid $49,350 to the baseball club, the full amount that investigators could confirm that he stole. He pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny after the restitution was paid.

Chodkowski took the money when he was head of the league, from 2011-2014, and lost much of it in local casinos, according to prosecutor Christopher Jurusik.

Chodkowski is now in counseling for his gambling addiction.

He took the money by writing checks to “cash” and falsifying business records to indicate the money went to purchases for the league that were never made.

Instead, bank records show he made more than 150 withdrawals from the baseball account at ATMs near his home and near a local casino, Jurusik said.

A probation report suggested that, in light of the restitution, Chodkowski could receive a conditional discharge and community service. But Jurusik argued Tuesday morning that such a light punishment would send the wrong message.

“It would be a slap on the wrist for the defendant and a slap in the face for the community,” Jurusik said. “He used West Seneca baseball as a personal piggy bank for three years.”

Defense attorney Dominic Saraceno countered that Chodkowski had no prior criminal record, that he was working and supporting a family, and that there were former players and their families who supported him for the work he did do with the baseball league.

“He’s paid a tremendous price already,” Saraceno said. “He’s been publicly humiliated beyond anything he should have to endure.”

Given a chance to speak for himself, Chodkowski said, “I’d like to apologize to the court and to my friends and family who I hurt.”

Judge Thomas P. Franczyk responded drily, “I assume that apology also extends to the baseball league.”

Franczyk said he was aware Chodkowski had invested his time and efforts in helping children in the league, but at the same time he was committing a deliberate breach of trust.

“This wasn’t some impulsive shoplifting. This was a systematic three-year theft from the baseball league,” the judge said. “There must be at least some punitive sentence.”

The judge ordered that, for the next 90 days, Chodkowski be jailed from 6 p.m. Fridays to noon on Sundays, a sentence that ends the weekend before Memorial Day.

Jurusik noted that the embezzlement was damaging to the league's reputation, but that the organization has put safeguards in place to prevent any one person from having complete control over its finances. Prosecutors also say that is a good policy for all groups to follow.

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