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UPDATE: Theft charges filed in nearly 3-year York City Ice Arena investigation

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York Ice Arena in York City, Friday, June 26, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A former general manager at the York City Ice Arena has been charged with theft after prosecutors say he pocketed nearly $23,000 meant to be deposited into an arena bank account between 2014 and 2017, according to the York County District Attorney's Office.

The charges filed Wednesday against Mike Cleveland, who lives at the 100 block of Sunset Drive in Fairview Township, followed a nearly three-year investigation at the ice arena. District Attorney Dave Sunday was not available to comment on the length of the investigation, which began in 2017. 

Cleveland is charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, a third-degree felony, and theft by deception, a first-degree misdemeanor, according to a news release.

On July 23, following a forensic report by York-based accounting firm RKL, Cleveland admitted he "did take rink cash for his personal use," according to charging documents.

“I am proud of the remarkable perseverance of our investigators and attorneys throughout this extensive investigation," said Sunday in a news release. "As someone who has prosecuted white collar crimes, I understand both the difficulty in charging and prosecuting, but also the financial harm to an organization and its erosion of trust.”

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Cleveland declined to comment Wednesday prior to his arraignment before District Judge Linda Williams. 

Williams barred the media from attending the arraignment. A preliminary hearing has been set for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 29.

Cleveland was released on his own recognizance, meaning he did not have to post bail, but rather promise to appear at future court proceedings.

Cleveland's attorney, Doug France, said later Wednesday that Cleveland "stands by his earlier statement that he improperly converted funds to a personal use."

“The issue that currently exists is that we have not had an opportunity to review the RKL forensic report,” France said. “So I can’t comment on whether the amount of the calculated loss is accurate.”

York-based accounting firm RKL had conducted a forensic audit of the arena's finances.

The charges specifically cite the 2018 forensic audit that showed between July 2, 2014, and Aug. 2, 2017, Cleveland never deposited nearly $23,000 in received payments that were supposed to be put into a rink bank account.

Cleveland "on more than one occasion" took cash revenue belonging to the arena, according to charging documents. In total, he allegedly kept $22,892 that was meant to be deposited into a rink bank account.

Coach Matt Doyle's Strength and Skills Clinic sponsored ice hockey camp at York Ice Arena in York City, Friday, June 26, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He also allegedly allowed an extra cellphone line to be billed to the arena and used it for personal use, the documents state. The bills totaled $1,318.

At the time, the York City-owned arena was managed by the York Revolution. 

Revs President Eric Menzer declined to comment when reached Wednesday. 

In August 2017, two employees came to Menzer with suspicions that Cleveland had not been depositing cash receipts into the rink bank account and the phone bill seemed to be too high, according to court documents.

Menzer had RKL conduct an initial review. In interviews with RKL investigators, Cleveland said other employees must have incorrectly deposited payments or incorrectly prepared bank deposits.

Cleveland did, however, admit to allowing his daughter to use a rink cellphone that had been issued to a former employee for nearly two years and that $600 was missing from the rink's safe, the affidavit states.

At the time, no formal report was written by RKL and total damages were not fully accounted for.

In March 2018, the DA's office retained RKL to conduct a forensic investigation report, according to the affidavit.

In interviews that were conducted through September 2019, RKL identified nearly $23,000 in missing revenue that was meant to be deposited into a rink bank account from organizations that utilized the facility.

The DA's office then retained RKL once again in March of this year to examine rink cellphone invoices, finding $1,318 in authorized Sprint phone expenditures.

On July 23, Cleveland admitted to taking money meant for the rink account, and a request for an arrest warrant was issued, the affidavit states.

The York Revolution had managed the arena since 2014. But in July, the York City Council gave the green light to Maryland-based Black Bear Sports Group to take over management.

The Revs had remained in their lease until the end of August to ensure a smooth transition, meaning Wednesday's charges came just more than a week after Black Bear officially took over.

Initially, the Revs' contract with the city ended in June 2018, but a one-year extension clause in the 2014 deal was triggered because the city failed to give 90 days' notice of its intent to seek new bids.

The city again failed to give proper notice last year, causing another one-year extension.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.