This Loser who we Refer to as Mr. Kiddie actually Lives in Our Neighborhood Across the Street and a Couple of Houses Down – for a Convicted Felon He Sure Seems to have Plenty of Money – New Cars and Trucks – Endless Home Improvements – Kind of Lives Like He’s Under House Arrest – and Looks Bored.
No More Vegas Trips with Money He Took from the Kids – Bummer – Mr. Kiddie. We Think that He May Have Stashed Some Money that he Stole from the Tustin Boys and Girls Club in His Backyard or Something.
Then there’s the “Clueless” Wife – “more than $75,000 of the money went toward a phantom salary for his wife, Elsie, a teacher at Pioneer Middle School” – Polston would endorse and cash her paychecks.
It’s All Just So Pathetic and Reminds Me A lot of Disgraced Preacher Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker. LOL
Tustin, California –
For years, Clifford Polston used the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tustin as his personal piggy bank.
He would charge the club he ran for 30 years for trips to Vegas and to Pechanga Casino, high-speed Internet at his home, countless meals, and gasoline as well as toll-road fees.
Clifford Polston, former head of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tustin, was sentenced to 3 years of probation in Orange County Superior Court.
One time, while Polston was vacationing in Tahiti, he had the club pick up his airport parking tab.
As its longtime chief professional officer, Polston was trusted implicitly by the board.
“Mr. Polston literally had the keys to the candy store,” a Tustin Police Department report says.
Once considered a pillar of the community, Polston, 60, admitted to fleecing the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tustin of $114,354 between July 2001 and June 2007.
More than $75,000 of the money went toward a phantom salary for his wife, Elsie, a teacher at Pioneer Middle School. Polston would endorse and cash her paychecks.
His sentencing Monday, to three years of formal probation, 200 hours of community service, and $260 in fees, has some former colleagues feeling he got off lightly.
“I, like others, think he should have gotten some jail time,” said Bill Kliss, a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs. “I thought for what he did, he deserved it. When you think of what he was doing, he was taking advantage of disadvantaged children, and that’s terrible.”
Kliss believes a year behind bars was called for, as does Gary Green, chief volunteer officer the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“He would have gotten the message,” Green said.
Even Judge Erick L. Larsh, who handed down the sentence, said he believed the crime called for prison time. But Larsh still signed off on the plea agreement.
Polston could not be reached for comment.
His attorney, Gregory Bartone, said Polston’s previously clean record and years of community involvement were factors.
“From a defense perspective, this was a great outcome,” Bartone said. “He’s very happy he’s not going to prison. He thinks it’s a fair resolution.”
Bartone said Polston is paying greatly for his crime.
“He has three years of probation,” Bartone noted. “If he makes one slip-up, he’s toast.”
“He’s also kind of a social pariah now.”
Recent cases involving embezzlement show a range of penalties.
A former financial officer at the Orangewood Children’s Foundation recently pleaded guilty to stealing $780,000 from the group and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and more than $1,150,000 in restitution.
A former PTA treasurer in Placentia was sentenced in August to 3 years of probation, 60 days in jail, and paying restitution for stealing $11,424 from the Melrose Elementary School PTA.
Polston originally pleaded not guilty, in July, to 27 counts of forgery, three counts of grand theft and one count of false entries in records or returns.
In November, in a plea agreement worked out with the District Attorney’s office, Polston pleaded guilty to a single count of grand theft, along with a sentencing enhancement for taking funds exceeding $50,000.
Polston’s guilty plea could have resulted in a maximum of four years in prison.
It is rare for judges to reject plea agreements. One recent notable exception involved the federal case against Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli for his role in an alleged stock-option scam.
Susan Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s office, said one of the considerations was making sure that the Boys & Girls Clubs got its money back as soon as possible.
Factoring in interest, Polston owed the Boys & Girls Clubs about $140,000 – almost the same amount that had accumulated in a life insurance fund the club purchased for him years ago.
Polston agreed to sign over those funds to the club.
“We really respect the wishes of the victims,” Schroeder said. “And in this case, the victim’s primary goal was to make sure the money went back to help the children as soon as possible.”
“We wanted some money to come out of his pocket, and that didn’t happen,” Kliss said. “But we’re happy with what we’ve got.”
CLUB STILL OUT $60,000
The Boys & Girls Clubs, however, still is out about $60,000, according to Green.
About $50,000 went to attorney’s fees to defend a civil lawsuit filed by Polston after he abruptly resigned as chief professional officer in 2007, after the board confronted him about suspicious financial transactions.
Polston sued the club to receive the life insurance funds, as well as for alleged unreimbursed sick time. The board countersued. The civil actions died when Polston agree to plead guilty.
The added $10,000 was for a forensic accountant who unearthed the embezzlement scheme. The probe only went back to 2001, because the club did not have the funds to dig further, Green said.
According to the Tustin police report, “The amount could be substantially more if one were to go back further in time.”
Green said the theft hurt the club’s reputation and finances, but that the club, whose annual budget is just over $1 million, is doing well. He and other board directors have reached out to donors to assure them their money is going where it should.
“This club is now buttoned-up tight,” Kliss said of new financial controls.
Added Kliss: “I thought the DA did a good job – I just wish the penalty had been a bit stronger.
“I think the message to other (charitable) organizations should be, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to pay for this crime.'”
Register staff writer Larry Welborn contributed to this story.