Former high school football coach in Medford to pay restitution to team

Staff reports

A former Medford High School football coach who was convicted of six larceny charges was ordered Friday to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to the football team as reimbursement for the money he stole to pay for personal expenses and entertainment purposes while he was coach, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.

Superior Court jurors May 14 found James Atkins guilty of five counts of larceny over $250, and one count of larceny by check.

At a sentencing hearing Friday, Assistant District Attorney Edward Beagan recommended Atkins be sentenced to serve two years in the House of Correction, with six months to serve and the balance suspended for a period of two years.

He also recommended that Atkins be sentenced to seven years of probation following the period of incarceration, that he pay $12,900 in restitution to the Chelsea High School booster club and that he be barred from any leadership positions in a nonprofit organization.

Superior Court Judge Judith Fabricant sentenced Atkins to serve a period of 90 days in home confinement to begin on July 1, during which time he will be monitored with a GPS tracking device. During that period, he is not allowed to leave his home except for medical appointments or religious services that must be pre-approved by the probation department.

Atkins was further ordered to begin paying restitution to the football team in the amount of $500 each month, for a total of $12,900.

Fabricant further ordered Atkins to five years of probation, which will begin following his period of confinement. The probationary period will be supervised until he pays the full amount of restitution; following his full payment, his probation will be unsupervised.

Fabricant also ruled that should Atkins retain employment following his period of home confinement, he is barred from holding a fiduciary position, or any position where he would be required to manage funds for a person or organization.

Beagan, chief of the trial team that prosecutes fraud, corruption, and white collar crime for Conley’s office, proved that Atkins, a former Chelsea Police sergeant, used his position as a head coach and president of the Chelsea High School football team to embezzle almost $10,000 from a bank account meant to support the team’s expenses — funds that had been raised in large part by the young players’ families.

Beagan showed Atkins made cash withdrawals at different times of day and night, by using an ATM card connected to the team’s bank account. Those withdrawals were made at cash machines near gambling facilities, a Revere strip club and while he was on vacation in Alabama.

Parents of students who were on the team and were very active in fundraising first brought their concerns to the school, when they became suspicious about Atkins’ control of the team’s funds.

Their concerns prompted an investigation by the Chelsea Police Department and Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to Conley’s office.

In January of 2007, Atkins attended a meeting with Chelsea High School students’ parents and the school’s athletic director. In that meeting, Atkins agreed to repay $8,200 over a series of installments.

Instead, Atkins visited a respected community member who had made charitable donations in the past and asked for another donation. That donor gave him a check for $1,000 for the Chelsea High School football booster club — which Atkins tried to apply to his outstanding debt.