Vista community members said a woman who stole tens of thousands of dollars from Vista Pop Warner created a "living nightmare" for the countless parents, coaches and players affected by the theft.
At a sentencing for Rachel Marie Owens, who previously pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement, grand theft and identity theft for filing a loan application in the name of the league president, victims spoke of the pain and suffering they endured as a result of her actions.
Owens was sentenced to one year in prison, five years probation and ordered to attend consumer counseling. She will have to pay back the $114,000 she stole when she was volunteer treasurer of the youth football organization.
"Rachel Owens’ actions created a living nightmare for myself and others directly involved not only in the investigation, auditing and repairing the damage she left behind," said Gaby Blas, president of the organization, during victim impact statements in court.
She described the pain and sadness when the organization discovered the loss during a crucial time for the players.
"I heard children asking parents if they were still going to have money to travel to final competitions, hold end-of-season banquets and if the program would still be around for them to play in 2016," said Blas.
The 41-year-old Vista resident stole the funds from Vista Pop Warner Football and Cheer between October 2013 and November 2015.
Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn said there were checks totaling $111,000 made out in Owens' name.
Blas said Owens stole her identity in an attempt to get several loans. She said even now, she doubts Owens feels any remorse.
Owens was arrested February 24 at Guajome Park Academy where she was working as a math teacher. The school district superintendent described Owens as a non-permanent teacher on probation. She was placed on administrative leave.
Defense attorney Peter Liss said his client feels "tremendous guilt and shame" about what she did.
"When she was interviewed by the probation officer, she told the probation officer she knows she betrayed the kids' trust and that she’ll spend the rest of her life not forgiving herself for what she did," Liss said.
Her son, he said, was one of the victims. Though she is barred from contacting the league and anyone associated with it, she wanted Liss to convey her apologies.
"She has told me personally that if it takes her her entire life she will pay it back," he said.
Two of the kids on the team said they didn't think Owens got the correct sentence.
"She stole from kids, and I think that's really wrong, and I think she should get at least five years in prison," one 13-year-old player said.
"She was our team mom and I thought I trusted her," the other player said.