NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
One of the most successful youth soccer programs in the nation is located in North Texas, and has now been dealt perhaps its biggest loss in 15 years.
The Solar Soccer Club has been defeated not by one of its opponents, but allegedly by a trusted former club president who parents say stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving them scrambling to make a save.
The club's 300 young players and their parents are fighting in court to overcome an unlikely opponent, one of their own.
Parents say David Ringer siphoned off more than $800,000 from them over the last five years. He was the last man many of them would suspect.
"He was the chairman," said Steven Badger, the parent of a Solar Soccer Club player. "He was the president. He was the bookkeeper; he was the counsel; he was the administrator. Everything was run out of his office."
Ringer was so trusted with the club's money, no one questioned his bookkeeping until just a few months ago when checks to coaches started to bounce.
Parents said upon closer inspection, they found a checkbook ledger indicating the chairman and president had been paying himself $5,000, $10,000 and up to $15,000 checks, sometimes just a few days apart.
In all, over a five-year period, parents allege in court filings that Ringer paid himself more than $800,000 not only from membership dues, but from more than $300,000 in loans that no one but Ringer previously knew about.
Ringer, who has filed for bankruptcy, said he's prohibited from discussing his case. However, in a letter to News 8, Ringer called the allegations "defamatory" as well as "unfounded, unwarranted ... and in dispute."
Once Ringer was confronted by parents, he told them he had been paying himself for legal work done for the club over the years, the parents said. While he had not been submitting monthly invoices, he did produce a schedule of itemized charges to support his claims, charges that also angered the parents. The charges included hours billed for "attending games," "rescheduling games" and "fundraising issues."
"So, it didn't wash and it also didn't wash because he never issued an invoice," Badger said. "He submitted a bill for legal service to the club and that's just lawyering 101. If you are going to charge someone for your services, you have to put a bill together and the club never saw a bill."
Solar Soccer Club parents have forced Ringer to step down. They are also intervening in Ringer's bankruptcy, seeking repayment and restructuring of all outstanding loans.
Parents and organizers say the club has rebounded financially. But, just like in the game of soccer, the parents vow to learn from their mistakes.
"The lesson is that for any 501(c)(3) or any charitable group, no matter who's running it or how trusted he or she is, you got to have some checks and balances," Badger said. "You got to pay attention."