Somebody Threw a Screwball

The Southwest Denver Little League should have made money with its bingo fundraisers. So why is $250,000 missing?

According to Cary Romero, the league's ex-president, one or another of the family had run Southwest Denver Little League for more than a dozen years. Ray had headed the organization for several years, after which Mike took over the reins. The whole family helped out. Ray and Mike ran the bingo games, his wife coached teams, and his sister ran her own baseball umpiring company, which the Southwest league hired to officiate its games.

"As new people came on, nobody questioned it," Romero says. "They just assumed that's the way things were always done."

By the time Duff was elected to the league board, Mike Sedillos was preparing to move on. Since Duff already had his bingo-games manager's license--his wife had been a high school volleyball coach, and they had helped raise money for the team with bingo--he soon began running games for Southwest Denver Little League.

Everything moved along smoothly until one night in August 1997, when, as he was closing the books, he noticed they didn't balance. That evening, after doing a quick review, Duff filed a report with the Lakewood Police Department claiming that, based on his research, $1,700 was missing from games held in the past month. The police report ended up on Detective Incampo's desk.

The missing money was significant to the organization, because according to records filed at the secretary of state's office, Southwest Denver Little League had consistently lost money hosting bingo games in each of the past several years--$35,000 in the red in 1992 alone. (Given such a record, it is unclear why the league continued to host the games, although during the same period it did make some money selling pull-tabs--which, technically, are impossible to lose money on.)

His suspicions aroused, Duff convinced the league's board to conduct an audit. On the recommendation of a state bingo inspector called in to look at the case, the league hired Lambrecht to do it. Later, Duff spoke to Incampo to keep him up to date.

"I was glad they were doing the audit," the detective recalls, "which I recommend for anything, and especially bingo. That stuff generates a lot of money."

Lambrecht dug into the project. She remembers getting the league's bingo books from 1993 to 1997--"a package as big as about four or five phone books." While technically simple--using the serial numbers of the lots of 1,500 packets sold and multiplying by the $6 cost of each packet, she calculated how much money the league should have taken in versus what it did--the process was laborious. Lambrecht estimates she spent about sixty hours poring over the financial records. She finished the bingo portion of the audit in June 1998. Her figures showed a $212,000 gap between what Southwest Denver Little League should have earned on its bingo games and what it did earn.

Within days, Lambrecht sat down with Duff, Romero, two state bingo inspectors and Incampo to go over the findings. Incampo recalls, "I'm looking, and these figures are jumping out at me. Then they tell me about the Sedillos family running the league, and I'm saying, 'Oh, great--it's a family affair.'"

Since Incampo was the cop, he directed the show. He ordered the state inspectors to begin checking with bingo suppliers to verify Lambrecht's numbers. Duff and Romero, meanwhile, were instructed to find witnesses for Incampo to interview who would testify that they saw the Sedillos family handle the bingo money. The meeting broke up.

"Everybody's supposed to do their thing," recalls Incampo. "But people sat on their butts. People procrastinated. So after awhile, I said, 'The heck with this thing,' and I put it aside."

Some of the procrastination on the Southwest Denver Little League case was understandable: Duff found one parent who claimed to have seen Ray Sedillos pocket some bingo money. But what did that prove? After all, as games manager, it was his responsibility to handle the money. (Asked by Westword about any missing bingo money, Ray Sedillos said, "I don't know anything about it.")

Yet some of the obstruction was official. In fact, it was more or less ordered by Secretary of State Vikki Buckley's office. Jerry Galindo, one of the state bingo inspectors who was assigned to work the case, recalls getting the message.

"We had gotten together and met at Incampo's office, and it was agreed that he would take charge. He asked Patrick [Ryan, another bingo inspector] and me to do some checking into the Sedilloses' lifestyle--had there been an increase in the amount of money, things like that. But when we got back to the [secretary of state's] office and explained what we were going to do, we were told no, that we were just to provide the minimum public records [to Incampo] and not really assist in the investigation."

"That was kind of a surprise," Galindo continues. "I mean, the state statute requires me to assist [police]; in fact, our job description says we're supposed to assist in any active investigation that comes down, and here Clarice [Clinton-Davis, the office's lead bingo investigator] wouldn't really allow me to do the investigation."

Clinton-Davis detailed the instructions not to help Incampo in a memo, which Galindo, who recently quit the secretary of state's office to run his own bingo hall, promptly circulated to Lambrecht, Duff and Incampo. "I made sure that people got copies," he explains, "because I didn't want to look like a fool just sitting there doing nothing."

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