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Former McHenry Baseball Association treasurer accused of embezzling $66K

Kelly Ference, 32, of the 5000 block of West Pyndale Drive, McHenry
Kelly Ference, 32, of the 5000 block of West Pyndale Drive, McHenry

McHENRY – A former treasurer for a McHenry youth baseball league remained at the McHenry County Jail on Tuesday after police said she embezzled more than $66,000 from the nonprofit organization.

The McHenry Baseball Association reported discrepancies with its bank accounts to the McHenry Police Department on Aug. 23. The association was concerned about a large amount of money not paid to the league’s vendors in 2016 and 2017, according to a news release from McHenry police sent Tuesday.

McHenry police and the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office investigated the report and found that Kelly Ference, 32, of the 5000 block of West Pyndale Drive, McHenry, was the nonprofit league’s treasurer at the time, the release stated.

Ference had been an elected volunteer for the organization for two years, but she didn't show any interest in running for the position again in the November election, McHenry Baseball Association President Joe Meyer said.

When Ference left, she handed over the association's keys and checkbook, Meyer said.

Representatives from the McHenry Police Department and the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office were not available to comment on details, including how the reportedly stolen money was used.

"To be very honest ... I do not know where the money went," Meyer said.

Ference is accused of cashing 77 checks between July 18, 2016, and July 27, 2017, amounting to more than $66,636.

Most recently, Ference tried to cash a check using the association's bank account Dec. 1, according to a criminal complaint filed in McHenry County Circuit Court. On another occasion, Ference is accused of writing herself a check for $574 using the association’s account, the complaint said.

Ference was taken to the McHenry County Jail, where she remained Tuesday evening on forgery and theft charges. She is due in court Wednesday.

If convicted of theft, Ference could face four to 15 years in prison. Her bond is set at $75,000, meaning she would need to post $7,500 bail to be released, jail records show.

McHenry County Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer said she likely will ask for Ference's bond be reduced to $10,000 Wednesday, since the charges are nonviolent.

The McHenry Baseball Association is a nonprofit group comprised of volunteers, according to the league's website. It offers four programs: in house, all-stars, travel and a "Junior Warriors" program – designed to prepare outgoing middle school students for high school-level sports. The group serves about 500 players who are between 5 and 16 years old and sign up during an open registration, Meyer said.

The McHenry Baseball Association's 2014 tax documents report $208,694 in total revenue and $141,238 in 2015. It reported $225,555 and $110,979 in total expenses for the same years, respectively.

The nonprofit's top five expenses in 2015 included baseball equipment and uniforms at $48,636, umpire expenses at $20,345, insurance at $10,384, utilities at $10,252 and repairs and maintenance at $6,046, tax documents show.

The association will meet Wednesday to discuss its budget heading into the upcoming season, Meyer said.

"We're going to try to figure out a way to make it work for us," he said.

Police have asked anyone with information to contact the Criminal Investigation Division of the McHenry Police Department at 815-363-2599.

Those wishing to pass along anonymous information are encouraged to call the McHenry police tip line at 815-363-2124. All calls made to the tip line are anonymous.

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