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Former coach pleads guilty to embezzlement

May 28, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

Former Lake Orion varsity cheerleading coach Nancy de Avila pleaded guilty last week to one charge of embezzlement and if she successfully completes all terms of her probation the charge and another count will be dismissed.

De Avila was arraigned in 52-3 District Court in February on two counts of embezzlement from stealing money from the Natalie Rae Nance Scholarship Fund, a non-profit organization she and one other person managed.

The first felony charge of embezzlement for $200 to $1,000 carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or restitution of three times the amount embezzled. The second misdemeanor count of $200 to $1,000 includes a fine of $2,000 or restitution of three times the amount embezzled.

DeAvila pleaded guilty in Oakland County Circuit Court on Friday, May 23 under Judge Wendy Potts.

She pleaded guilty to the felony count and will be sentenced June 25, when it is expected that she will be placed on a delayed sentence.

The court may delay the sentence for up to one year to give De Avila the opportunity to prove her eligibility to be placed on probation. Defendants are placed on delayed sentence if the court finds they are unlikely to engage again in offensive or criminal conduct.

If all restitution is paid by June 25, DeAvila's felony conviction would drop to the misdemeanor count. If all terms of the delayed sentence thereafter are complied with then both charges would be dismissed. Her probation will be determined at sentencing.

"There have been numerous contacts between my office, the sheriff's department, as well as through the victim, and they have no objection in proceeding with this manner," a courts spokesman.

Because she provided a factual basis for count one she was not required to plead to count two.

"I used funds from the charity I was involved with without permission from other members of the charity," De Avila stated to Judge Potts. .

"How much money was involved?" Judge Potts asked.

"More than $200," de Avila said.

De Avila said it has all been paid back to the organization.

Prior to resigning from the district in February, de Avila was the competitive cheer coach for Lake Orion High School and was named District Coach of the Year.

The team won the OAA Red Division League Title, the Division 1 District Title and placed fourth at the 2014 MHSAA Division 1 state finals in Grand Rapids.

Criminal investigations began in December 2013 when the other scholarship fund manager noticed shortages in the account.

The Natalie Rae Nance Scholarship provides monetary scholarships to graduating seniors in the areas of art, cosmetology and cheerleading. DeAvila, alongside other supporters and family members, helped spearhead the charity after Natalie Nance died in a tragic car accident in January of 2006.

After two months of investigations Oakland County detectives learned roughly $22,000 had been siphoned in and out of de Avila's personal accounts.

Checks from the fund were used to purchase goods and services and used to make payments on personal credit card accounts. At the time de Avila had paid back $9,000.

Cheerleading parents have also reported their suspicions after paying for dragon gear--shorts, tees, bags, sweats--and not receiving it until months later, and only being partially refunded.

De Avila confirmed at circuit court she was in the position to access and use the funds.

Defense attorney Robert Morad said multiple letters of support have been sent for de Avila, and believes all restitution has been paid.

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