Polk County high school softball coach charged with stealing money given to team

Kaelin Mancuso,, photo via Polk County Sheriff's Office
Kaelin Mancuso,, photo via Polk County Sheriff's Office

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Deputies charged a 28-year-old Polk County high school softball coach with forgery, grand theft and passing a forged instrument.

Kaelin Mancuso, of Lakeland, is the head coach at Kathleen High School. In March a business owner sponsored a Kathleen High softball player “in expectation of an advertisement banner for his company,” a Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said.

The business owner submitted a $300 check that was made payable to “Dirt Devils Softball.” Deputies said Mancuso never turned the check in. In addition, deputies said, an advertisement banner was not made for the business.

The check was allegedly deposited on July 1 into Mancuso’s personal bank account. “The check was altered as the ‘Pay to the Order of’ was changed from ‘Dirt Devils Softball’ to read ‘Kaelin Mancuso,” the spokesperson said.

Deputies said Mancuso reported no money had been received during the sponsorship banner promotion. Kathleen High staff did not find records of the banner having ever been ordered or displayed at the school, according to the sheriff’s office.

On April 23 North Lakeland Baseball and Softball Inc. gave a check to the Kathleen High softball team. The $200 check was written out to “Kathleen Softball.” Deputies said the check was deposited on Aug. 25 into Mancuso’s personal account. The “Pay to the Order of” section was again altered, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Aug. 8 North Lakeland Baseball and Softball Inc. submitted another $200 check to Kathleen’s softball program. Deputies said that check was deposited into Mancuso’s personal account on Aug. 25. The check was again altered, according to the sheriff’s office.

Mancuso said she did not steal money and that she didn’t know it was wrong to alter checks.

“Kathleen High School checked the financial record for the Softball team and found no deposits into the softball account since November 2015,” a sheriff’s office spokesperson said. “Post-Miranda Mancuso stated she received the two donation checks from North Lakeland Baseball and Softball in late August. She said she did not believe the school would accept them so she whited out the name and wrote her name on the check and deposited the checks into her personal bank account. She said she used the money to purchase team equipment and never reported it to the school.”

“Mancuso also stated she received the sponsorship/advertisement check from Instrument Solutions, but said it was for her fall ball team, which is a school related travel ball team, but not affiliated with the school. She said she whited out the name on the check and wrote her name and deposited it into her personal bank account. She purchased team equipment with the money and did not report it to the school. She did not know the check was to be used for any advertising and did not think it was related to the sponsorship fundraiser her team was conducting at the time the check was written,” the spokesperson added.

Mancuso is charged with three counts of forgery and three counts of passing a forged instrument. She’s also charged with grand theft.

She was hired in March 2012. Her annual salary is $42,171. Mancuso received a written reprimand in April 2016 for using profanity.

The Polk County School District released the following statement Monday:

“The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has arrested Kaelin Mancuso Westberry, a P.E. teacher as well as a softball and volleyball coach at Kathleen High, on charges of grand theft, forgery and uttering a forged/altered instrument.

Polk County Public Schools has placed this employee on paid administrative leave, and an internal investigation has begun. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement in their investigation. We appreciate the Polk County Sheriff’s Office being swift and professional in responding to this situation.

The allegations against this employee are troubling. Many residents and businesses support our schools’ athletic and academic programs. The school district is grateful for the generosity of the community. Any misuse of these resources is unacceptable.

At Kathleen High, an internal account was set up last year for coaches to deposit funds and purchase items through Kathleen High’s athletic director and finance secretary. This was done to improve accountability.

Considering that this is the subject of an internal investigation as well as being a pending criminal case, we will not be providing an interview at this time. We will advise you accordingly if that changes.”

 

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