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Sat, Aug. 24

Former Mingus football coach indicted for embezzlement

The former head football coach and athletic director of Mingus Union High School has been indicted for embezzling thousands of dollars of the school’s money.

Michael Don Epperson, 47, was indicted by a grand jury July 26 on one count of embezzlement for allegedly obtaining $2,533 from Mingus Comptroller Ann Coker to purchase travel bags and weight room equipment. It is alleged he instead used the money to purchase football jersey’s for players participating in an all-star game in Australia that was not connected to the high school’s sports program, Cottonwood police said.

"Epperson admitted to writing the requisitions and then getting approved for them but then using the money for another purpose," police said. "He said he wrote it up requesting athletic bags but he never had any intention of getting athletic bags. He intended on using the money to place into an account at International Sports Specialist Inc. (ISSI). He said he wasn’t sure if the kids could raise enough money before they left to go to Australia for the ‘Down Under Bowl’ so he wanted to put some money into an account to use if necessary."

Epperson reportedly told police he wrote up the request in April and threw it away three times before actually submitting it. He also said he deposited $810 in an account with ISSI under his son’s name because his son was the assistant coach for the "Down Under Bowl" and assistant coaches had to pay their own way. According to Epperson, the $810 was never spent.

A second check written to B&C Sports for $1,733 was reportedly appropriated to buy weight equipment but actually used to buy the jerseys.

"He (Epperson) said he was going to repay the school back after he got the money from the boys but he hadn’t figured out how to pay it back without getting caught," police said. "Epperson said this money was actually used or spent because it paid for the jerseys."

When police asked Epperson why he took the money he reportedly said, "stupidity."

Superintendent John Christensen reported the misappropriation to police June 14 after Coker informed him that Epperson never purchased the supplies he obtained funds for. Christensen pointed out to police that the addresses Epperson listed for the two companies were incorrect. He stated that the P.O Box listed for ISSI is actually Epperson’s P.O. Box in Cottonwood. B&C Sports is reportedly located in Anthony, Kan., and ISSI is located in Logan, Utah.

On June 16, Epperson arrived at Mingus with a cashier’s check for $810 and one for $1,700 and gave them to Christensen, the police said. Christensen reportedly told police Epperson was really upset and told him he knew he had done something wrong. He said Epperson told him he took the money because "he felt Mingus owed him something." He also reportedly said he was mad at Christensen for not having a job next year and asked him not to prosecute him.

Epperson reportedly told police he had received news from Christensen in January that Mingus was not going to offer him a job for the 2000-2001 school year and that Christensen had been advised by the school’s lawyer not to explain the reason for his dismissal. Epperson said he received a good evaluation from Christensen in November 1999 and didn’t understand why he was being let go.

He (Epperson) reportedly told police, "Christensen finally told him (the reason for his dismissal) was because he wasn’t happy with his performance or he wasn’t working hard enough in class." Police said, "Epperson felt it was a personality issue and there were some underlying issues. He said Christensen brought back a good friend of his, Bob Young, as the football coach. He said he found out recently that Christensen was arranging to get Young back before he asked Epperson for his resignation."

The two checks Epperson gave Christensen were handed over to police June 16 and the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office charged Epperson with one count of embezzlement. Epperson was scheduled to be arraigned on the charge Aug. 7 but Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Janis Ann Sterling continued the hearing until Aug. 14.

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