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Woman accused of embezzling from sports program for kids

Kathryn Merritt faces a 10-year felony for embezzlement from Cedar Springs Junior Ball League; cash withdrawals, purchases at hotels uncovered during probe.

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. — The former treasurer of Cedar Springs Junior Ball League has been charged with embezzling thousands of dollars from the organization, which has served legions of families and players in northern Kent County.

The felony case against 38-year-old Kathryn Rose Merritt was recently moved to Kent County Circuit Court. Merritt is free on bond.

“She was a coach, she was a treasurer, she was a friend. It was devastating,’’ league president Amy Gillette said.  

Cash withdrawals, purchases at hotels and car rentals were discovered during the probe, court records show.

“We could not turn our heads and will do everything we can to fight for the money we believe was stolen,’’ Gillette said.

According to court records, the embezzlement occurred between 2013 and 2020. 

Merritt was charged with embezzlement of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000 from a non-profit or charitable organization. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

Cedar Springs Junior Ball League has a 16-acre facility on Shaner Avenue NE near 17 Mile Road.   

The league has 185 children enrolled this year. While most are from Cedar Springs, others come from Rockford, Kent City, Howard City and Greenville, Gillette said.

It offers Blast Ball, Tee Ball and Coach Pitch and accommodates children ranging in age 2½ to 9.

The investigation got underway last year when Gillette filed an embezzlement complaint. She told investigators that prior to taking over as president of the league, “they never had enough money to make repairs or purchase any new equipment,’’ according to a probable cause affidavit.

Gillette told investigators that she retrieved bank statements and reviewed deposits and withdrawals, noting several financial discrepancies.

“Amy advised that she located numerous large cash withdrawals at ATMs, purchases at hotels, vacation rental, rental cars, etc.’’ court records indicate. “Amy then located on Kathryn Merritt’s Facebook similarities in dates of the hotel purchases, vacations, and locations the bank card was used throughout the United States.’’

Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Price wrote in a probable cause affidavit that Merritt was interviewed “and confessed that the card was used by her to make purchases that were not approved.’’

The unauthorized transactions topped $24,300, court records show.

“Community support has been wonderful,’’ Gillette said. “We are now going forward and able to make improvements because the money is actually being used for what it is supposed to be used for.’’

Defense attorney Jared Shouey declined comment.

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