Wrestling coach gets probation, community service

Former Kingsley football coach and teacher Jason Leonard talks to his players during a scrimmage in Kingsley in 2017. A judge sentenced him Wednesday to one year of probation and 10 days of community service on embezzlement and illegal use of a financial transaction device charges. Restitution will be set at a future hearing.

TRAVERSE CITY — A judge ordered a former Kingsley teacher and football coach to write an apology letter and serve a probation sentence for embezzling money from a youth wrestling program.

Jason Leonard pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of embezzlement of between $200 and $1,000 and illegal use of a financial transaction device charges last month. He helped run his Kingsley Youth Wrestling program until a Michigan State Police investigation determined he took more than $5,000 from organization accounts.

He appeared Wednesday in an 86th District Courtroom in Traverse City where a judge sentenced him to one year of probation and 10 days of community service. He could face 30 days in jail if he violates terms of his probation.

Restitution will be settled at a future hearing.

Michael Naughton, Leonard’s attorney, declined comment. Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg did not immediately return calls for comment.

The wrestling club’s treasurer, Anne Tuck, first spotted unexpected charges on August 2017 Chemical Bank statements, including three Rogers City transactions made Aug. 2 and 3, 2017, well after wrestling season ended, according to court records.

Leonard, 44, claimed his own credit card was “tied up holding rooms” and he forgot to reimburse the account, court records show.

Bank records show three more purchases made against the club’s account through PayPal for $127.50 on April 27, 2017.

MSP investigators suspect Leonard stole $5,189.73 while he organized the club’s annual fundraiser from 2014-2017.

The accusations led school administrators to place Leonard on paid administrative leave in September 2017, after the investigation started.

Prosecutors first filed an embezzlement of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000 from a nonprofit organization charge against Leonard last March, more than a year after he moved to South Carolina.