Little League Embezzler Deserves Big League Time

August 21, 2009

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On Monday, Kimberly Knight will appear before Judge Melinda Morris to discuss a little financial matter.  It seems the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association is missing a few bucks – actually, its entire operating budget, almost a million dollars -- and Judge Morris would like to ask Kimberly Knight where it is. 

Kimberly Knight should have a pretty good idea.  From 1999 to 2007, Knight served as the Association’s treasurer. 

Those were heady years for the organization. Enrollment was strong, with a high of 1200 boys and girls playing hockey.  The league was bringing in enough money to pay for kids who couldn’t afford to play hockey, and start saving for a rink of their own.  

By 2007, it looked like the league’s dream might be within reach.  Today, it’s closer to folding altogether.   

To appreciate what’s at stake here, it helps to understand that the Association started way back in 1951.  Its first director, John MacInnes, had played goalie for Michigan and went on to coach Michigan Tech, where he won three NCAA titles and a record 555 games.  A true legend – and a good guy.

Many Association alums have gone on to play college hockey, and one, Teddy Speers, once scored a goal for the Detroit Red Wings.  But that’s never been the point of the league. The goal has always been to get more kids playing hockey, making them a little healthier and happier, and keeping them out of trouble.  If you ask any of the league’s  20,000 alums, including yours truly, you’ll hear just how successful the league has been.  

More impressive, to me, is the fact that the league’s always been run entirely by volunteers – people with day jobs and families who still devote tons of time to an often thankless task. I think about my coaches like Roy Bolles, who didn’t even have kids on the team.  We’re still in touch.  I think about referees like Ken Westerman and Jeff “Tiny” Bourne, who not only got up at 5:30 to make sure we didn’t kill each other -- for peanuts -- but would take the time between whistles to teach us about the game.  

But what I remember most is going over to see the Childs, who ran the league in the seventies, and seeing the piles and piles of jerseys – hundreds of them – in their basement, where Mrs. Childs was sewing the names of the sponsors on the back of every single sweater.  You don’t forget that.

When her husband Ross stepped down as the league director, the crowd gave him not one, not two, but three standing ovations.  You don’t forget that, either. 

What makes non-profit groups so good – the volunteers -- is what makes them such easy targets for dark souls like Knight, who did her damnedest to reverse over a half-century of good deeds by pilfering close to a million dollars.  She spent it on watches, diamond earrings, and a Cadillac Escalade.  They should investigate her husband, too.  It’s hard to imagine he had no idea what was going on. 

That’s bad enough.  But what’s unforgivable is that she took all of it from little boys and girls – many of whom depend on scholarships from the league just to play the game.  Even worse, Knight might not pay for it – or very much, anyway.  For some reason our system of justice tends to go easy on embezzlers.  I have no idea why.  If she had robbed a million dollars from our homes, and not our kids, she’d be gone a long time.  But Knight is currently negotiating to minimize her jail time – and she might not get any, which is not unusual in Washtenaw County.

Kimberly Knight should be forced to produce every penny of the money she stole from the kids, even if it means selling her home, her land, and her Cadillac Escalade.  Better she goes under than the league.  And she should do prison time.  Real time.  Hard time. 

Judge Morris, I urge you to do the right thing, and protect eight-year old kids from con artists like Kimberly Knight.  

Anything less would be a crime. 

Copyright © 2009, Michigan Radio

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  • 8/21/2009 8:56 AM David Ellies wrote:
    I've been gone from Ann Arbor since 1996. However my son, Ben, and his family continue to reside in Ann Arbor. Ben played in the AAAHA from age 6 until high school when he played for AA Huron. I served on the board of the AAAHA and was its treasurer for perhaps 5-6 years in the mid to late 1980's. The board was a group of dedicated volunteers who loved the game of hockey and the opportunity the AAAHA afforded local kids to learn and play the game. I cannot fathom what this woman has done. How on earth did she get away with embezzling close to $1Million? Prison time? Absolutely and she should repay what she stole from the AAAHA and the many kids it nobly serves.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/21/2009 10:39 AM John U. Bacon wrote:
      Well said, David - and this, from a man who knows of what he speaks.

      Knowing how many good people like you did so much for this organization and the kids it serves makes this case all the more galling.

      I hope justice is served.

      Reply to this
  • 8/21/2009 9:44 AM Jim Hirsch -Bris dad wrote:
    Amen!!! And Plaxico goes to Prison for being stupid! Please keep us informed of the outcome on this evil woman.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/21/2009 10:47 AM John U. Bacon wrote:
      Ha -- good point. I will definitely keep the Bacon Bloggers updated. Judge Morris is scheduled to sentence Knight on Monday.
      Reply to this
  • 8/21/2009 10:14 AM Mike Breazeale wrote:
    They should rip her heart out just like she did for the kids that need the scholarships to play - terrible.

    Why not put her in goal w/o any pads and have some of these kids shoot on her?
    Reply to this
    1. 8/21/2009 10:55 AM John U. Bacon wrote:
      Now THAT would be creative sentencing -- but anyone who's played hockey might consider it cruel and unusual.

      Reply to this
  • 8/21/2009 4:16 PM Craig wrote:
    While I agree with the general sentiment expressed I have to wonder, given the size of the working budget where were the checks and balances? How did not more than one person need to "sign off" on checks written? How did not more than one person view a monthly bank statement?
    Reply to this
    1. 8/21/2009 4:32 PM John U. Bacon wrote:

      You raise a good point, of course. Ms. Knight appears to have been pretty crafty, changing banks and mailing addresses and the like to avoid scrutiny. But clearly, the AAAHA needed better oversight, including the basic checks and balances you describe, such as annual audits.

      This is what I alluded to when addressing the strengths and weaknesses of volunteer organizations: Because they don't always have the time to do things the way a commercial organization would, they tend to rely more than most on a basic level of trust.

      That said, AAAHA has learned its lesson, and has followed proper accounting practices since, including reinforcing the checks and balances you mention.

      Hope that answers your question.

      Reply to this
  • 8/21/2009 6:21 PM Jim wrote:

    Your points about the leniency afforded people like this are criminal acts by the judicial system itself. I strongly suggest you rent several buses and bring these boys and girls to the courthouse so that the sentencing judge must look them in the eyes as he "slaps" her wrist.

    Even if restitution is part of the sentence be prepared for bankruptcy, as in most cases restitution is not feasible and unfortunately the loss is written off as a bad memory.

    There is strength in numbers and if I were you I would lead the charge of filling the courtroom and with your contacts you can turn this into a media frenzy where this crooks and the judge will want to leave town.

    Please keep us informed of the outcome.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the kids who will not get the same opportunity as those that came before them and for those that will end up in jail themselves because they used their idol time to get into trouble because they were unable to play hockey.


    Reply to this
  • 8/21/2009 8:57 PM Brad wrote:
    Ms. Knight methodically and systematically stole nearly $1,000,000 over several years and may not go to prison. If a person down on his luck impulsively steals $150 from a 7/Eleven, he is going to serve time. What does that say about our society?
    Reply to this
    1. 8/22/2009 1:58 PM John U. Bacon wrote:
      I couldn't agree more with both readers. This case clearly exposes a blind spot in our justice system -- unfortunately at a terrible cost to a great organization.

      I have no official capacity with AAAHA, other than being an appreciative alum and great admirer of those who've kept it going strong all these years. Some believe packing the court room can backfire, as it might irritate the judge, but I can understand the desire to make manifest that this is not some abstract issue but one affecting real kids.

      Judge Morris is free to rule as she sees fit, of course, but I am hopeful that the punishment will fit the crime.

      Thanks for writing, as always. One of the most gratifying aspects of writing this blog has been reading the intelligent commentaries of our readers.

      Reply to this
  • 8/23/2009 9:53 PM PeteM wrote:

    I'm also a AAAHA alum (and you subbed once and awhile for my law school Intramural team in early 90s). I agree completely that the Judge should take strong action, but I also suspect that there's no way that she's getting 10-20 years or whatever people might be hoping for.

    While I'm not a criminal lawyer, and I don't know if this is possible under the sentencing guidelines, I'd like to see something along these lines:

    1. The max sentence, plus
    2. Restitution.

    with the additional provision that if she can make restitution (or significant progress toward restitution) within a short period of time then the judge will consider a reduction in the sentence.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/24/2009 10:03 AM John U Bacon wrote:

      Your simple, elegant idea is dead on, in my view. That's it -- all that anyone's asking for.

      Doesn't seem like too much to me.

      Thanks for writing - and the ice time!


      p.s. All readers: You can also follow this debate on, where my commentaries run every Friday, as well.  The responses are generally unhappy with the situation, though a few believe more compassion should be shown the perpetrator.  Just fyi.

      Reply to this
  • 8/25/2009 12:00 PM Jim Sparrow wrote:
    John, Thanks for bringing up The Childs family. I was one of Scottie's best friends and I spent many nights at his house...playing garage hockey of course. Ross and family deserve a lot of credit for maing the AAAHA what it is today.
    Reply to this
  • 8/26/2009 3:38 PM nancy wrote:
    You know John I was the treasurer for the AAHA for 3 yrs in the 90's and I performed
    my duties there with the utmost integrity.
    I always treated the position as I would for my business clients. However I feel today the mind set is if you are not scamming or cheating you are considered a loser. In my business I see this attitude everyday. And this my friend is a very sad commentary on our society as a whole.
    Reply to this
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