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Youth football league’s dreams gambled away

The director of Granite Falls Youth Football allegedly gambled away all of the league's money, forcing parents to scramble to save the season. (Image courtesy Erika Bachellerie-Sarey)

Granite Falls Youth Football will host its final games of the season this weekend, one month after the season was nearly scrapped because the director allegedly gambled away all the fees the parents and sponsors paid.

The parents pulled enough money together to finish the year, but many of them are wondering why the director of Granite Falls Youth Football isn’t under arrest.

Parents started raising questions when their kids’ jerseys failed to show up. The director had plenty of excuses, most of which seemed plausible to parents like Steve Silver.

“I started noticing that certain things that needed to be done on time just weren’t getting done,” Silver said.

Checks started bouncing, and the association that oversees youth football in the North Sound told Granite Falls the league insurance hadn’t been paid, so practices and games had to stop.

“It came to a point where a couple of the coaches and couple parents said ‘OK, we want to see the books,'” Silver said.

That’s when the director took off, disappearing for about four days. Silver said he eventually sat down with the parents at a local pizza joint and came clean.

“He had been hiding a gambling addiction for a year and a half, possibly two years, ” he said. “He was using whatever money he could to try and double-up at the casino, including the league’s money.”

Silver said the $5,000 to $10,000 parents paid for referees and insurance was gone. The parents might still be on the hook for about $15,000 in equipment he ordered for the league.

Silver is like many parents involved in this. He wants to know why this league director hasn’t been arrested.

“When you steal from my kid, I want to know the reason why, and I don’t want to hear some bleeding-heart story,” Silver said. “When it comes down to it, you did what you did, and you lied about it.”

Silver believes the director has avoided prosecution, so far, because he’s a longtime resident of Granite Falls and he knows a lot of influential people in the city.

The interim police chief said a criminal investigation is still possible. His detectives are simply waiting for someone to press charges.

The former director could also still face lawsuits from the equipment company and the referees association.

The parents are now picking up the pieces. They are trying to form a board and a non-profit to put Granite Falls Youth Football on a stable footing for next season.

Silver said they are all thankful for the community, which rallied to raise money to pay for insurance so they could finish the season, and the league fees were waived until the season was over.

“The last thing we really wanted to do was tell these kids ‘well we can’t finish the season that you started and here are the reasons why,'” he said. “I think that would have been greatly unfair to those kids.”

There’s a big spaghetti feed and fundraiser Sunday night at the Granite Falls Eagles Lodge. The kids have launched a crowd-sourcing site to raise money. They received about half of their $10,000 goal in two weeks. They hope to have the rest by next Friday when those league dues need to be paid.

I reached out to the former director by phone. He hung up on me and then refused to answer any further voicemails. KIRO Radio has decided not to name him because he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

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