AP NEWS

Cops: Embezzling case continues into Stamford softball’s Charles Pia Sr.

April 4, 2019

STAMFORD — When city police executed an arrest warrant for Charles Pia Sr. last week for allegedly spending Stamford Girls Softball money on personal expenses, they may have just been exposing the tip of an iceberg of embezzled funds.

According to his seven-page arrest affidavit, police initiated their investigation into Pia Sr.’s use of the nonprofit in the summer of 2017 after fielding several anonymous complaints over the years about Pia Sr., the league president, managing the program improperly.

After discovering at that time that the 35-year-old league that fields teams of girls from age 4 to 18 had its nonprofit status revoked by the Internal Revenue Service three years before, the investigator on the case, Heather Bozentko, asked for assistance from the state Department of Consumer Protection to look into the organization’s bank accounts.

In doing so, an accounts examiner in the Frauds Unit of the department sent subpoenas to First County Bank for any account information associated with Pia Sr. and the softball league. That examiner looked at softball league’s accounts from 2012 to August 2017, according to court records.

After analyzing the accounts, the examiner identified $54,278 worth of “questionable charges” over the five-year time frame, the affidavit said. Police said the money for the league was raised from raffles, concession stand sales and other charitable means.

“That is a lot of money,” said Sgt. Steve Perrotta, who runs the department’s Financial Crimes Unit. “We are currently continuing the investigation and we would like to find out if those charges were legitimate and if there was any legitimate relationship between those charges and girls softball.”

The arrest of Pia Sr., 62, last week came after police got a warrant charging him with fifth-degree larceny for allegedly stealing just under $1,700 of the funds in question. Perrotta said the investigation is continuing to determine whether Pia illegally spent any of the rest of the $52,580 questionably withdrawn from the accounts.

“We are still looking into this. The investigation is ongoing,” he said.

What Pia Sr. got arrested for was for two expenses he paid for that police and the state examiner traced back to the bank accounts of the Stamford chapter of Babe Ruth Girls Softball.

According to the affidavit, they found a $894 Eversource natural gas bill and a Splash Car Wash bill of $796 charged to the softball account.

When police checked to see where the gas bill came from, Eversource told them that it was to pay for gas delivered to 18 Windell Place, where Pia Sr. lives, the affidavit said.

When they checked into the Splash Car Wash bill, they found out that Pia Sr. had paid monthly for the company’s unlimited car wash plan for his 2006 Lincoln Mark LT black pickup truck. Perrotta and Bozentko even went to Pia Sr.’s home and found the truck, which had a bar code sticker on its dashboard used by Splash to verify it was part of the unlimited wash plan.

Pia Sr. had paid for the washes from August 2016 to August 2017 racking up the $796 car wash bill, the affidavit said.

Perrotta said they went forward with Pia Sr.’s arrest on misappropriating those funds because they were the easiest to prove.

“They were the tightest cases we could come up with. It has been very difficult because Pia has not cooperated with us. Those were the expenses that were the most difficult to refute on his end,” Perrotta said. “If we can find others and charge him, we certainly will. Those expenses were the ones that lent themselves to the least amount of doubt of his guilt.”

Although just after his arrest last week Pia Sr. told The Stamford Advocate that he turned over his accounting books to police, Perrotta scoffed at the notion.

“We did not get any books,” the Stamford sergeant said.

Pia Sr., who was released after posting a $10,000 court-appearance bond, is scheduled to be arraigned on April 12 at the Stamford courthouse. No plea has been made to the charges.

Pia Sr.’s attorney Stephan Seeger has not returned a request for comment.

Police are asking anyone with information on the case to contact them at 203-977-4407.

jnickerson@stamfordadvocate.com