11/27/2014

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Jail sergeant accused of stealing thousands from Wapato Youth Athletics League

Jail sergeant accused of stealing thousands from Wapato Youth Athletics League

WAPATO, Wash.  --  A Wapato jail sergeant is now at the center of his own criminal case. Bruce Benscoter is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from a community youth sports program and Action News learned he's also under investigation by Yakima County deputies.

Bruce Benscoter wasn't happy to see KIMA's cameras Thursday afternoon in Yakima County Superior Court.

The jail sergeant and former Wapato Youth Athletics League director now faces felony theft charges. He's accused of stealing from his own organization which strived to provide children with positive activities.

Sandra Estrada had three kids enrolled in the league's sports programs.

"Does that make you question where your money went?" KIMA asked.

"Yes, it does," Estrada said. "Definitely. That was the first thing I said, 'That was part of my money, I'm sure.'"

According to the affidavit, Benscoter started pilfering from league accounts the same month he took over as director in 2011.

In once instance, investigators said he wrote himself a check for $1,000 claiming it was reimbursement for sports uniforms.

Benscoter is also accused of pocketing a $750 payment from a Wapato Alcoholics Anonymous Group. That money was supposed to pay for use of the community center.

Police believe Benscoter stole more than $5,000 while leading the program.

As youth league director, Benscoter played a key role in helping reopen the Wapato Community Center which had sat idle for seven years.

"I was happy that it reopened," said neighbor Noemi Gonzalez. "I thought, you know it's a good opportunity for kids that didn't get to experience that like when I was younger."

To get all sides, Action News contacted the Wapato Police Department. The chief would only confirm Benscoter is on leave.

Sheriff's deputies wouldn't comment on their investigation of Benscoter. He resigned as Youth League Director at the end of last year.

The Youth League posted on its facebook page that the organization was deeply saddened by news of Benscoter's arrest.

Investigators said they searched through the league's invoices and couldn't find any documents supporting Benscoter's use of league money.

He made bail and was released from jail. Benscoter is expected back in court next month.

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