Rodeo officials think peer took missing money

November 5, 2009 2:52:55 AM PST
Someone swiped tens of thousands of dollars from the La Porte Rodeo, and that means some youngsters are without the money they earned.Members of the rodeo's board want to get to the bottom of what happened. La Porte police are conducting an investigation into the incident.

The woman at the center of the controversy -- who will not be identified since she has not formally been charged with a crime -- does work for the school board, officials said. Her children participate in livestock show activities, and she is also a board member.

At Lomax Arena, the serenity of horse cutting is in stark contrast to the emotion just outside.

"We've been angry, we've been sad and we've been angry again," board member Rick Dean said.

The board members of the La Porte Livestock Show and Rodeo Association feel betrayed.

"I don't understand it," board member Sarah Sexton said. "I just don't understand it."

They believe that one of their own -- someone they trusted -- is a thief.

"How did we not catch this?" board President Betty Cuccerre asked.

The investigation started with some simple questions in mid-August. That's when the 70 or so children from the previous show there usually get paid for what they sell. When the woman kept stalling, Cuccerre said they started to sensed trouble, and when they checked the books, the money wasn't there.

"We all sat there together when we found out, literally in tears," Cuccerre said.

La Porte police are in the middle of their investigation, so they will not say exactly how much money was stolen, but they think it is a lot.

"We believe it is in excess of $50,000," Assistant Chief Steve Deardorff said.

Taking the money from the organization, Cuccerre said, is essentially like stealing from children.

"That money belongs to them," she said.

Now the remaining members are working to pay back those children with a fraction of a bank account.

"It may take us a little while," she said, "But they will be paid in full."

This is a small organization with a very tight budget. They have been able to pay the children about half of what they are owed.

Board members plan to hold fundraisers to earn the rest of the money. Board members will hold a meeting Thursday at 7:30pm to clear up any rumors.

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