By Sarah Hall
Former Liverpool Little League President Alisa Pezzino and her husband, former treasurer Christopher Pezzino, have been accused of embezzling more than $3,000 from the organization, according to the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department.
The Liverpool couple was charged Thursday, Oct. 27, with grand larceny in the third degree and falsifying business records in the first degree. Deputies allege the Pezzinos used the league’s credit card for personal expenses, including groceries, restaurant bills and bar tabs, as well as taking proceeds from the league’s concession stand sales.
According to new Liverpool Little League President Chuck Blincoe, the league’s board of directors first suspected something was wrong at their August board meeting.
“At every board meeting, we have a treasurer’s report,” Blincoe said. “We make sure that we’re up to date on how much money is in our league account, and we know what outstanding bills we have that need to be paid, and we know how much money we have coming in from sponsors, registrations, things like that. It’s really an important part of every meeting.”
At the board’s June meeting, there were no problems with the accounts. The board didn’t meet in July, but when they reconvened on Aug. 4, Blincoe and other board members were shocked by the report from the treasurer, Christopher Pezzino.
“It was a staggeringly low number,” Blincoe said. “At that point, red flags went up to me and a few of the other board members immediately, and from that point we started asking for more information.”
But Blincoe said the Pezzinos dragged their feet in providing that information.
“We got push back when we did that, which was surprising to us, because these are not personal finances we’re looking to get,” he said. “We’re looking to get league finances, which belong to every member of the league.”
Finally, another board member called for a formal audit. In going over the bank statements and receipts line by line, which took about a month, the audit committee discovered the missing money and where it had gone. They presented their findings to the entire board, which included the Pezzinos.
“They had no answers for us as to why it happened,” Blincoe said. “They just said that they paid the money back, but there’s no evidence or record of that.”
The board asked the Pezzinos to resign and installed a new board, which included Blincoe as president. They then determined that the best course of action would be to let the authorities handle the matter from there on out.
“Obviously our main concern was getting the money back in the league so that we can benefit our kids, our players going forward. It’s not our job, it’s not my job to be judge, jury and executioner,” Blincoe said. “I’m not in a position where I feel like I can make decisions for every parent in this league for that.”
Blincoe said the board also wanted to be sure they were fully transparent in their actions.
“I think that if we would have just taken a check [for restitution], I think if that was to get out to the masses, people could perceive that as a cover up. That’s not something we wanted to do. We didn’t want to speak for the 225 players that we have in our league. We figured the best course of action was to let the professionals do what they do for a living and handle it that way.”
Blincoe wanted to assure the families and parents in the league that this was an isolated incident.
“I was voted in as president, and I can assure you and every parent in the league that this type of thing will not happen again going forward,” he said. “There were protocols in place before that were not followed, but we will make sure that they are followed going forward, and really the league financially right now is in great shape. We’d be in better shape, but it’s in great shape right now, and I predict an excellent year for next year.”
He did express disappointment in the actions of his former fellow board members.
“This is a tough job, and a lot of times it’s a thankless one,” Blincoe said. “How did you think that we’re not going to find out that there was this big of a discrepancy with what we feel should be in the bank and what is not in the bank? I don’t know anybody would think that this was acceptable behavior, or it was something that you could do without being caught.”
Alisa and Christopher Pezzino were arraigned in Salina Town Court Thursday, Oct. 27, and released on their own recognizance. They are due back in court on Dec. 14.
A call to the Pezzinos for comment was not returned.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club’s Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.