Championship youth football program's finances under fire

Bills pile up, parents ask 'Where's our money?'

MEDINA, Ohio - An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation into a championship youth football program uncovered tens of thousands of dollars of debt and questions over where the money is going.

Last year, the Medina Bees fielded 44 flag football teams. Players paid $35 to register. Another 26 teams played tackle football at $95 per player.

But despite bringing in tens of thousands of dollars, the organization has been left with upaid bills, a team credit card with unexplained charges and an $11,000 bounced check.

Michelle Brummage paid $300 so her two boys could play. Yet when Brummage asked for a refund because the family was moving away, she got nothing -- even though it was weeks before the start of play.

Michael Butts, President of the Medina Bees Youth Football, admitted the organization brings in around $60,000 a year.

"At first, he said fine," said Brummage, when she asked Butts for a refund.

But despite repeated calls, her money was never refunded.

"I got a lawyer to try to get my money back -- no response from certified letters," said Brummage.

And our investigation found there's a long list of peple who want their money, too. At least four businesses are taking Butts to court to recover money they claim is owned to them.

In Elyria, Riddell Sports is asking for $9608.40 the company said it's owed.

in Georgia, a fundraising company, called "The Discount Card," is suing for $4,900.

A Warren, Ohio concession company claims it's owed $2,172.

And a Texas based company said an $11,000 check from the football organization bounced when the company tried to cash it.

"We've actually been paying our bills," said Butts. "We haven't paid them all down."

But Riddell, the Texas sporting goods company, the discount card fundraisers and the concession company said they are all still waiting for a payment.

Some parents even complained there was not enough money on hand for trophies.

"All our kids on your team were upset when they heard they weren't going to get their trophies," said Robert Graf. "The guy I coach with paid out of his own pocket to pay for our entire team."

Butts argued he gives away free and discounted registrations for up to 23 percent of the 900 kids he said participate.

In addition, he said he charges less in registration fees than the program actually costs.

"Charging less than what it costs to put a player on the field or a cheerleader. Wanting the kids to have the very best and safest equipment," said Butts.

There is one thing he could not explain -- unexplained charges on a team credit card.

A Medina Bees business credit card with his name was used for two separate payments to Ohio Edison -- the electric company.

We found a $440 charge in August, 2007 and another $253 charge in November .

"I'm not sure what they are," said Butts, "No, I'm not sure."

Steve Dryer is a parent who asked Butts to show him the books.

"We asked for some bank statements, we asked for some further documentation, tax returns -- but we never saw any of that," said Dryer.

The Medina Bees are registered with the IRS as a non-profit organization.

We checked with two other major youth football programs, both in Medina County that are also registered as non-profits.

Both filed IRS forms 990 that detail every penny of revenue and expense.

Tony Piloseno is president of one of them -- the Medina Youth Football Association.

"I think its really important that people can feel confident that money's being used correctly," said Piloseno.

When asked to see similar tax filings for the Medina Bees, Butts replied, "Not now -- I don't have them with me. We haven't filed them recently, we need to catch up on some of those things."

The organization was asked to present its financial records at its convenience, but so far, it has not responded.

Check out the filings for non-profit organizations at:

Watch this story Monday night on NewsChannel5 at 11 p.m.

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