Local

Woman accused of embezzling McHenry youth baseball funds has previous theft, fraud convictions

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 – The woman accused of embezzling more than $66,000 from the McHenry Baseball Association had three previous theft-related convictions, which were unknown to officials at the nonprofit youth league.

A judge agreed Wednesday to reduce bond for Kelly Ference, 32, of the 5000 block of West Pyndale Drive, McHenry. Police have said that the woman wrote herself checks using the association’s bank account during her time as the league’s volunteer treasurer.

These aren’t the first criminal charges to be lodged against Ference, McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Victor Escarcida said Wednesday.

In 2007, she was convicted of theft and misuse of a credit card. She was convicted of forgery the next year, Escarcida said. Details about Ference’s previous convictions, which were in Cook County, were not available Wednesday.

McHenry Baseball Association President Joe Meyer said he was not aware Ference had any previous fraud-related charges. Although the nonprofit organization performs background checks on each of its coaches, it likely wouldn’t have conducted one for Ference, a volunteer who handled office duties, Meyer said.

With her husband seated in the gallery, Ference tearfully answered attorneys’ questions regarding how much money she could post to be released from jail.

Escarcida asked that Ference be placed on house arrest if released.

Over Escarcida’s objection, Judge James Cowlin ultimately reduced Ference’s bond to $50,000. The original bond amount set on a warrant for her arrest was $75,000.

McHenry County Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer had asked Cowlin to reduce the bond to $7,500, meaning Ference would need to post $750 bail to be released.

Ference was unable to post more than that because her bank account recently had been frozen, Messer told the judge.

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

Most recently, she 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.

The McHenry Baseball Association is a nonprofit group that serves about 500 players between 5 and 16 years old. It reported discrepancies with its bank accounts to the McHenry Police Department on Aug. 23.

After performing regular bookkeeping, the association was concerned about a large amount of money not paid to the league’s vendors in 2016 and 2017, McHenry police officials have said.

Police and prosecutors have not said where the money is or how it might have been spent.

Ference had been an elected volunteer for the organization for two years, at which time she also worked a separate, full-time job.

Her next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 18.

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