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Guilty plea in hockey embezzlement case

Published 8:18 am, Tuesday, April 10, 2012
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STAMFORD -- A 54-year-old former accountant accused of embezzling more than $80,000 from a youth hockey association three years ago pleaded guilty Monday to a single count of first-degree larceny.

Kiernan Lyons, of Hoyt Street, Darien, entered the plea moments after Stamford state Superior Court Judge Gary White terminated his accelerated rehabilitation program because Lyons failed to pay $30,126 in restitution to the Mid Fairfield Youth Hockey Association that the special probation program required.

Arrested in 2009 by the Darien Police Department, Lyons was accused of writing unauthorized checks worth tens of thousands of dollars from the youth hockey organization while serving as its treasurer during a two-year span beginning in November 2007.

With the guilty plea, Lyons agreed to a suspended five-year prison term with five years of probation. Lyons must pay back the $30,126 in restitution as a condition of his probation or face serving the prison time.

State's Attorney David Cohen said Lyons agreed to pay the balance remaining after insurance payments covered some of the stolen funds.

Lyons had access to the youth hockey organization's funds as its volunteer treasurer. He lost his job in November 2007 and began drawing funds from the youth hockey organization to cover car payments and rental payments for his home, according to his arrest affidavit.

Lyons apologized to the organization and his family after the hearing.

"If I had been able to find any type of job, I would have been happy to make restitution," Lyons said. "I'm sorry for the distress I caused to Mid Fairfield and to my family."

Lyons appeared with defense attorney Mickey Sherman, who had his law license reinstated last month, two years after a federal judge sentenced Sherman to a year in prison for owing nearly $1 million in unpaid taxes.

"It's good news, bad news," Sherman said of Lyons' case. "The good news is he's not going to jail. He's got five years to come up with the money. The bad news is he is a convicted felon."

Authorities would have erased Lyons' criminal record if he made restitution in the time frame specified in April 2009, when he was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a program for first-time offenders.

Peter Russo, the president of Mid Fairfield Youth Hockey when Lyons embezzled the funds, said the organization survived the thefts with help from supporters. Other hockey board members, including its current president and treasurer, declined to comment about the case.

"We were able to rise through it," Russo said.

Board members turned to police in June 2009 after Lyons confessed during a meeting to stealing more than $45,000 from the youth hockey organization, his arrest affidavit said. Board members told police Lyons said he needed the money to make routine payments and that he offered to make restitution. Lyons sent the board written restitution agreements that detailed some of the thefts, and the board sent the agreements to Darien police investigators, according to the affidavit.

The following month, an interim treasurer found several more unauthorized checks written to Lyons or to cash, with Lyons' signature on them, the affidavit said. The treasurer forwarded copies of the checks to police investigators, who arrested Lyons in August 2009.

jeff.morganteen@scni.com; 203-964-2215; http://twitter.com/jmorganteen