Michael Celestine never saw it coming, nor did anyone else.
“We were on the same team together, she was our team mom, she was our treasurer,” Celestine said in his first interview.
He's talking about Carrie Richardson. A woman he and other board members trusted to handle all of the finances for Escondido Pop Warner youth football and cheer.
“She is a very professional woman, the way she conducts herself, there’s no way you could not trust her,” Celestine said.
Richardson was also trusted as book keeper for eight years by the owners of North County Yamaha.
Until a few months ago, when the owners found out she had allegedly embezzled roughly $50,000, according to a search warrant obtained by NBC San Diego.
That prompted Celestine to check the books for Escondido Pop Warner and found about $60,000 dollars was also missing.
“I took it to heart because Carrie was a friend of mine,” he said.
Friends say Richardson and her family quickly moved out of state after the allegations came to light.
“It’s just a punch in the gut,"said vice president Christina Davis. “I can’t fathom taking that kind of money from children, it makes me sick to my stomach.”
The board members of Escondido Pop Warner have also gotten a severe backlash from parents.
Registration numbers have plummeted from 330 football players to 100, and a 100 cheerleaders to just five.
Celestine has a message for parents who may have lost faith in the organization.
“Please come back to Escondido Pop Warner,"he pleaded. "We are doing everything we can to make it right, we don’t want their children to go without football or cheer.”
Prosecutors are still deciding whether to file criminal charges against Richardson, who has since moved to Maine.
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