DA rejects York Ice Arena's ex-manager for diversionary program in embezzlement case

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
York Ice Arena in York City, Friday, June 26, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The former general manager of the York Ice Arena has been rejected for a diversionary program that could have allowed him to avoid possible conviction for allegedly embezzling about $23,000 from the arena over a three-year period.

Michael James Cleveland, 51, of the 100 block of Sunset Drive in Fairview Township, remains free on his own recognizance, charged with the third-degree felony of theft by failure to make required disposition and the first-degree misdemeanor of theft by deception.

Defense attorney Doug France on Nov. 30 filed Cleveland's application to be admitted into York County's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which allows first-time nonviolent offenders to avoid possible conviction and criminal records by instead successfully completing a set of court-ordered requirements.

Those requirements generally include restitution, community service and a year of probation.

On Thursday afternoon, the York County District Attorney's Office rejected Cleveland's application, according to court records.

The reasons: DA's office spokesperson Kyle King said the filing states Cleveland was rejected because, in the district attorney's view, he is not amenable to treatment, because he was allegedly involved in years of embezzling money for financial gain, because the listed victim in the case opposes ARD and because the amount of restitution that would be owed is excessive.

Michael James Cleveland

The DA's office rejection also notes Cleveland was rejected from ARD for protection of the public, King said.

France on Thursday afternoon said he couldn't immediately comment about the rejection because he had not yet reviewed the DA's office filing.

He has previously said Cleveland "stands by his earlier statement that he improperly converted funds to a personal use."

The allegations: Cleveland is accused of stealing cash from the ice arena between 2014 and 2017, while he was general manager there.

At the time, York City had contracted with the York Revolution to manage the rink.

Two York Ice Arena employees went to York Revolution President Eric Menzer in 2017 and told him they suspected Cleveland wasn't depositing cash into the arena's bank account, according to court documents filed by the York County Detective Bureau.

Menzer retained an accounting firm to investigate, documents state.

Cleveland was interviewed by the accounting firm and initially blamed other ice arena employees, saying there was a universal key that allowed anyone to access his office, court documents allege.

Blamed whistleblower? He also initially blamed one of the two whistleblowers for "errors" in relation to the missing money, saying there were work-performance issues with the man, documents state.

Mike Cleveland, former general manager of the York Ice Arena, leaves his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. He is accused of stealing about $23,000 from the ice rink over a three-year period.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

Another employee told the accounting firm in 2017 that Cleveland would take cash from a lockbox and handle depositing the money, according to documents.

In March 2018, the York County District Attorney's Office asked RKL LLP, the investigating accounting firm, to prepare a forensic investigative report of its findings.

That report was completed on March 12 of 2020, documents state.

Allegedly confessed: On July 23, Cleveland told York County Detective David Jay that he took the cash — estimated at $22,892 — for his personal use, according to court documents.

Much of that money came from skating leagues that used the ice arena regularly. They include the Saturday Morning Old Timers, York Synchro, the She Devils and a York College skating class, documents state.

Cleveland also admitted he gave a former ice arena's work cellphone to his daughter to use, at a cost to the area of $1,318, documents allege.

The York Revolution had managed the York Ice Arena since 2014. But in July, the York City Council gave that contract to Maryland-based Black Bear Sports Group.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.