SUGAR LAND, TX (KTRK) -- The former treasurer of a Houston-area youth baseball league, who was accused of stealing thousands of dollars, has taken a plea bargain in an effort to avoid trial and prison.
Trace Werner, 44, entered a guilty plea to theft and misapplication of property by a fiduciary. He said little while standing before Fort Bend County District Court Judge Maggie Perez-Jaramillo, but briefly muttered an apology while fighting back tears.
"I want to thank and apologize to the court, prosecutors and especially to the little league. For my actions and everything.. So I'm just.. given the opportunity to redeem myself ...so thank you," Werner said.
Investigators say Werner stole from the Sienna Plantation Youth Baseball League when he was its treasurer, between January 2013 and October 2014, accessing money using its debit and credit card in addition to taking cash from concession sales. Prosecutors say Werner spent the money on personal items like family trips and even a pool at his home. Those are allegations he still denies.
In all, prosecutors say Werner stole $51,660, which on Monday, he paid back. He still owes another $11,000 in forensic accountant fees and court costs. The total amount due -- nearly $63,000.
"With him paying the money back, the board happy and we look forward to some closure and moving forward," said Stephen Brannon, President of the Sienna Plantation Youth Baseball League.
He says protections have been put in place to keep such theft from ever happening in their organization again. Werner was a friend, someone they trusted. This plea bargain doesn't erase the betrayal they feel. But brannon says they will never make a mistake like this again.
Werner's attorney says his client borrowed the money from family and friends to pay back the league.
In addition to the payments, Werner must serve 300 hours of community service, write a letter of apology to the league and may not be involved with non-profit groups in any way throughout the course of his 5 years of probation.
If you want to investigate your child's little league, we have easy steps we've posted online.
Ft. Bend Co. baseball league treasurer pleads guilty to theft, apologizes