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Former AYSO official arrested

October 02, 2003

Deepa Bharath

Police arrested a 55-year-old Costa Mesa man Wednesday on suspicion

of embezzling more than $100,000 over two years from the local youth

soccer league, officials said.

Former AYSO Regional Commissioner Anthony Leon Anish turned

himself in at about 1 p.m. at the Newport Beach Police Department

after a warrant was issued for his arrest on Tuesday, Sgt. Steve

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Shulman said.

He said police investigated a complaint from "suspicious" parent

volunteers in the American Youth Soccer Organization for the last

four months.

"Detectives served several search warrants to obtain records from

his home, office and bank," Shulman said. "We determined based on

those documents that the allegations against Mr. Anish are true."

Anish pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday afternoon. He is

out on a $50,000 bail.

Anish began serving as the AYSO's interim regional commissioner in

February 2001. Nine months later, he became the regional

commissioner, in which capacity he collected and maintained money

from registration and fund-raising. He held that position until last

February.

Anish is also facing a civil lawsuit filed by the AYSO in June

that seeks general damages to collect the amount that he allegedly

spent for his own purposes. Anish could not be reached for comment.

His attorney, Jerry Werksman, said Anish "has explanations for

where the money went."

"He had never intended to steal," he said. "We're asking for an

audit, and if he owes money, he'll pay."

Werksman said Anish has been involved in youth sports for more

than 20 years as an amateur coach, referee and commissioner.

"He feels passionately about helping kids play soccer, and he

would never do anything to hurt the league or his own reputation," he

said. "He is not a thief."

Anish's arrest is "disappointing but not surprising," said Mike

Barr, AYSO Region 120 commissioner.

"They had to find the missing money somehow," he said. "It was a

lot of money."

Barr said not having this huge chunk of funds has affected the

league, which supports about 1,500 students.

"Both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach need more lighted soccer

fields," he said. "This money has also helped us keep our

registration fees lower."

The league now has several protections in place to prevent such

incidents in the future, Barr said.

"We have pretty strict guidelines," he said. "Our checks now

require two signatures. Our bank statements are reviewed by several

people."

Mike Wade, the attorney representing the AYSO in the civil lawsuit

against Anish, said he is pleased with Anish's arrest.

"We hope we'll get our day in court so that justice can finally be

served," he said. "Hopefully, this will discourage people from taking

advantage of their neighbors' trust and goodwill."

Wade said the civil lawsuit will most likely be put on hold until

the criminal case is sorted out.

Anish's next court hearing in the criminal case is scheduled for

Oct. 27 at the Harbor Justice Center.

* DEEPA BHARATH covers public safety and courts. She may be

reached at (949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at deepa.bharath@latimes.com.

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