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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : local September 25, 2016

7/23/2012 9:36:00 AM
Former Mingus wrestling coach Tom Wokasch charged with fraud and theft
Charges stem from handling of wrestling event proceeds
Former Mingus wrestling coach Tom Wokasch has been summoned to appear before Judge Bill Lundy in Verde Valley Justice Court Aug. 21 at 9 a.m.
Former Mingus wrestling coach Tom Wokasch has been summoned to appear before Judge Bill Lundy in Verde Valley Justice Court Aug. 21 at 9 a.m.
Mingus officials react to Wokasch charges

Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD -- Mingus Union School Superintendent Tim Foist was guarded Monday morning in his reaction to news that former head wrestling coach Tom Wokasch and his wife, Laura Jean, face felony charges for fraudulent schemes and felony theft. The charges are expected to be served to Wokasch and his wife Aug. 21 by Verde Valley Justice Court Judge Bill Lundy.

The charges come from an investigation into Wokasch for misappropriation of funds while he was head wrestling coach at Mingus Union. Wokasch was accused of depositing ticket and concession receipts into personal bank accounts instead of reporting the money to the school.

Reached by cell phone at his Kansas ranch, Foist said that looking back at the investigation into Wokasch, he knows that the administration and governing board did what they had to do to follow school policy and state law.

"Our school has been through enough on this," Foist said. "The administration and board acted responsibly through policy and state law."

He said the school district is not involved any longer.

School board member John Tavasci Jr. was board president during the Wokasch investigation and firing.

"It's a very, very sad circumstance," Tavasci said. "You hate to see that."

He said it is too early to comment on the charges against Wokasch and his wife.

"I know they have been doing forensic accounting for a long time," Tavasci said about the time lag between Wokasch's firing and the news that he is being charged with two felonies. "We have to wait and see how this plays out."

The firing by Mingus Union High School of Wokasch for misappropriation of funds was the biggest news story coming out of the school district during 2010. The Verde Independent broke the story during the last week of March 2010.

On June 14, 2010, the MUHS Governing Board accepted a recommendation by Foist to dismiss Wokasch from his teaching position. Wokasch had resigned from his coaching position earlier in the year after leading the Marauders to a fifth-straight state championship. In 20 years, Wokasch's wrestling team had a dual record of 417-70-1.

At the time of his resignation as wrestling coach, just weeks before the revelation of the investigation into his handling of school money, Wokasch told The Verde Independent he was stepping down "to focus on my family more."

Last year, he was employed as a science teacher and wrestling coach at Queen Creek High School.

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD -- Former Mingus Union High School championship wrestling coach Tom Wokasch and his wife each face two felony charges that Cottonwood Police characterize as white-collar crimes.

The charges allege that the long-time coach misappropriated money by depositing cash from wrestling tickets and concession sales in the personal bank accounts of Tom and Laura Jean Wokasch. The incidents occurred over a five-year period.

Cottonwood Police spokesman Gareth Braxton said Wokasch and his wife are charged with fraudulent schemes and felony theft.

The charges read:

1) "On or before April 4, 2004, and March 9, 2009, Thomas John Wokasch (and Laura Jean Wokasch) pursuant to scheme or artifice to defraud knowingly obtained a benefit from Mingus Union High School by means of fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises or material omissions in violation of Arizona Revised Statute 13-2310, Class -2 felony."

2) "On or between April 4, 2004, and March 9, 2009, Thomas John Wokasch (and Laura Jean Wokasch) knowingly controlled property of Mingus Union High School, to wit: cash or checks of a value $4,000 or more to less than $25,000 to deprive Mingus Union High School of such property in violation of Arizona Revised Statute 13-1802, a Class-3 felony."

Braxton said the department subpoenaed both of the Wokasch personal accounts. Investigators also looked at lines of credit, which could be separate accounts in addition to the school accounts. He said there were as many as seven accounts scrutinized during the investigation

The bottom line of the alleged misappropriation is $18,796.77, said Braxton.

By a 4-1 vote in June 2010, the Mingus School Board dismissed Wokasch from his teaching position. He earlier had resigned his position as wrestling coach.

Cottonwood Police said the case was complicated by the fact that the Wokasch family had control over their books and did not follow school policy to record student transactions with the business office.

The charges follow investigations by both the State Auditor General and the intergovernmental investigative arm, the Rocky Mountain Information Network.

Braxton said, "The tricky part was there were the allegations and then the statements that contradict those allegations. It is enough to move forward to determine where we go from here."

The couple has not been arrested yet. They have, however, been summoned to appear before Judge Bill Lundy in Verde Valley Justice Court Aug. 21 at 9 a.m. Lundy is expected to transfer the felony crimes to Superior Court.

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Related Stories:
• Wokasch fraud and theft investigation back on track
• Wokasch case dismissed ... for now
• Wokasch, wife make first court appearance
• Editorial: Wheels of justice continue to spin in Wokasch case
• Editorial: Wokasch case needs review by police dept.
• Mingus board votes to dismiss Wokasch
• Mingus teachers association declares support for Wokasch
• Foist: Wokasch will not return as teacher at Mingus next year
• WRESTLING: 5-Time State Champs

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, July 27, 2012
Article comment by: Maybe I missed something

I find it incredibly funny how my next door neighbor alledgedly embezzled approximately $2500 from his employer and he was arrested, put in jail, where he still sits to my knowledge. Why is it that Mr. and Mrs. Wokasch are free until they have to 'show up,' even though they are being charged with fraudulent schemes and felony theft the same charge as my former neighbor.

Posted: Friday, July 27, 2012
Article comment by: Mother of wrestlers

My sons were lucky to wrestle at Mingus Union High School with Coach Wokash. He was completely devoted to the kids and the program. I want to see the evidence that he personally benefitted from any fundraisers--all I witnessed was the sacrifices he and his family made for the kids and MUHS. He and Laura were great for my boys and the community.

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Article comment by: Jill Moon

These are charges....not a conviction! It is so sad that people "judge" when they only hear one side of a story! It is not the job of people that are "uneducated" about the entire issue to make judgements. "The tricky part was that there were the allegations and then the statements that contradicted the allegations", this statement alone suggests that there is more to this story. Sometimes it gives people a sense of power to predict others fate and to "cut them down". Thank goodness we have educated professionals that will find out the facts and then bring it before an informed judge or jury!

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: Justan Olegodger

seems to be a bit of lynch mob mentality around the the old school house

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: Danny Smith

Golly John I am sorry I did not explain this enough to where you would understand the language. Anyone else would get that I was referring to my family. My point was that other people in the administration new how the money was being handled, right or wrong, yet he is the only one losing his job over it. There were huge wrestling tournaments for years with school officials on site and yet noone questioned the money, come on. Next time I will try to be clearer John although I was expecting another rambling simple response.

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: Walter McIntosh

When you are trusted, and then steal from the very children who trusted you are a sorry individual. The full force of the law needs to be inforced on this individual and his wife who was iin with him. Jail time is the right corrective action.

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: ex wrestler

This does not surprise me one bit! He always had an air about him that he was better then everyone. I always knew karma would get him some day.

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: John A. Bond


I am reminded of why criminals are caught. They do stupid things. It is their arrogance and/or stupidity that usually trips them up.

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

This GUY was teaching your KIDS, doesn't seem very SMART to me. I had to take Educational LAW when I went to COLLEGE. Putting school FUNDS in your PERSONAL account is against the LAW. Period. I think an ELEMENTARY school student could understand that.

If he had opened ANOTHER account to bypass the WAITING period at the bookstore, then he wouldn't be CHARGED with a FELONY now, would he? It still would have been WRONG, but he would have been ABLE to account for every DIME.

OR he could have FOUGHT to change bookstore POLICIES in all those YEARS.

Bernie MADOFF was a nice guy too and he ALSO had FANS, until he went to JAIL for FRAUD.

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: The Whole Story

I for one, do not buy this. I would like to hear the whole story from the Wokash family. I don't have kids that wrestled but even so....I have witnessed this man pour his heart, soul and life into that wrestling program. I know he spent countless more hours than required building this program because he loved it . I find it very hard to believe that he took this money, put it into his account for his financial gain. Did he do things by the book and the right way? Maybe not but why did it take so long for Mingus to catch this error in the financial affairs of wrestling money? Could it possibly be that things were done differently at one time and that this was not an intentional act of dishonesty. I just don't know too many people who have met this man who believe this was a money making scheme by him or his family and that should mean something. There is a big difference. I hope someday the Wokash's get a chance to explain their side of the story so that we all have the whole story and can make our decisions then.

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: John A. Bond

@ Danny Smith:

"We"? Who is this collective "we" to whom you are referring? Did you know abou the theft of funds and kept quiet about it?

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: CITIZEN WATCHDOG

About time. No one, not even cultural pseudo - athletic heroes, are above the law. He took the money. He now must pay the price.

Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Article comment by: knowing how long it takes

I personally know how money and fundraising goes at Mingus. If people like Gaia Gurl knew, they would know that fundraising money goes to the book store and once it is there, it takes time to deposit into your sports's account, and then when you need to use the money for something it takes days before you can use it because of the process Mingus has to approve your spending has to go through different people. Before you start jumping to conclusions and assuming he did in fact "steal from children" maybe you should realize the reason he may have done it was to eliminate the waiting for the money from the bookstore, so he could use it immediately for the high schoolers. Just because you read it in the media doesn't mean everything is exactly how it seems. Yes, what he did was against policy, and ended up biting him in the butt, but you may not even know the actual story. People like Gaia Gurl need to stop thinking they know exactly what kind of man Tom Wokasch is based on a short article online.

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012
Article comment by: Danny Smith

Myy son wrestled for Coach Wokasch. We were around when all this was going on. Tom may have went about it the wrong way but the school knew exactly what he was doing and went along with it for years until someone came in with a political motivation to get rid of him. Even with the money from the wrestling events I am positive that he still spent more out of his own pocket for his wrestlers.

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012
Article comment by: Maybe I missed something

Didn't Bush and Cheney both admit publically several times that they approved torture?

Torture is an INTERNATIONAL crime, I guess if they were trying to get away with it, they would not have done it openly or admitted it.

Oh wait, they did get away with it.

The police would not charge Mr. Wokasch, if there was no evidence of a crime.

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