Former youth baseball president pleads guilty to embezzlement; second case moving forward
A former president of Concord Northeast Baseball and Softball League pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing thousands of dollars from the association during his tenure there.
The man, Robert Lachapelle, pleaded guilty in Merrimack County Superior Court to two felony counts of theft by unauthorized taking. As part of a deal with county prosecutors, he is set to receive probation and a suspended jail sentence next month.
Lachapelle was arrested a year ago and accused of withdrawing $4,300 from the league account in 2010, twice through fund transfers and once through a drawn check. The police said they began investigating Lachapelle in April 2012 when a league official reported concerns that funds had been misappropriated.
Lachapelle, who is 55, served as president of the league from 2007 to 2011. He also served as director of the Babe Ruth Softball 16U World Series in 2009, when it came to Concord.
In addition to suspended jail time, Lachapelle is expected to pay full restitution to the league and to complete a county diversion program, Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle said. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 14.
Andy Kastle, the league’s sitting president, said he and others were “pleased that this long legal journey is nearing completion.”
“While the sentencing has yet to take place, the diligence of the Concord Police Department and Merrimack County Attorney’s office has led to this satisfactory point, and Mr. Lachapelle has taken responsibility through his plea,” he wrote in an email.
Kastle also reiterated what officials said when the charges were first brought: The league has tightened its control over receipts and instituted a more detailed record keeping process for expenditures.
“These unfortunate circumstances have led CNE to strengthen our financial controls and our sponsors and parents can know we are on solid footing,” he wrote.
Lachapelle and his attorney, John Draghi, declined to comment after the hearing. Yesterday was the last day they could enter a plea in the case.
Merrimack Valley case
In an unrelated case of alleged youth baseball embezzlement, a 45-year-old Boscawen woman has been charged with stealing more than $1,500 from Merrimack Valley Youth Baseball & Softball last year.
The woman, Michelle Toupin, waived indictment last week and is expected to plead guilty later this month to one felony count of theft by unauthorized taking. According to the charge, Toupin, the league’s former treasurer, withdrew the money from the association’s Citizens Bank account in Concord sometime between April 7 and Aug. 21.
League President Eric Crane said Toupin served as treasurer from October 2012 through August. He said the league discovered the alleged thefts and contacted the police.
“The league was very sad to find out what happened,” Crane said. He declined to discuss specifics in the case, but said the amount stolen was “substantial.”
Authorities also have not said how much Toupin allegedly took; Assistant County Attorney David Rotman declined to comment yesterday. A plea and sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 27 in Merrimack County Superior Court.
As part of a bargain with county prosecutors, Toupin would receive six months in jail and five years of probation. She would also agree to pay full restitution to the league.
Crane said the thefts have limited the league’s ability to provide scholarships to children from low-income families. He said officials have begun soliciting new sponsors to help cover the loss.
“We’re doing the best to keep everything running smoothly,” Crane said.
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, email@example.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)