OGDEN — A Hooper woman pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than $5,000 from a charity softball tournament intended to raise money for Primary Children’s Medical Center.
According to Utah 2nd District Court records, Shawnn Marie Brakefield, 33, entered a plea agreement to a reduced charge from a second-degree felony to a third-degree felony Monday.
A third-degree felony is punishable by one to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, as opposed to one to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“We want to keep her from getting close to any charities like this again,” said Linda Child, the mother of Brody Spinden, 30, the deceased man in whose name the money was raised.
“We’re a little bit confused as far as why she was able to plead to a reduced charge.”
Child said she believes the charge reduction may have been possible because bad checks Brakefield wrote to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City on an empty account never were actually run through the credit union.
But the family believes Brakefield was caught because she tried to deal with the wrong family.
Instead of taking the fraudulent checks to the hospital on the day of the presentation, a short time after she received them, Child stopped at the credit union they were written on and found out that they wouldn’t clear.
“We would have donated bad checks to Primary Children’s Medical Center,” said Lee A. Child, Linda’s husband and Spinden’s stepfather.
“They would have run them through and called Shawnn back and told her the checks didn’t clear, and nobody would have followed up on that.”
She will be sentenced Nov. 14.
Brakefield was in charge of handling the money for a Brody Spinden Memorial Tournament, which was a softball tournament for adults, Aug. 13 and 14 of last year in Ogden.
Family members said Brakefield approached Juan Martinez, a well-known organizer of such tournaments in the community, to help her with the tournament two months after Spinden died.
They said Brakefield offered to handle the funds.
“She told us she had created a nonprofit organization, but she ended up creating a bank account where she was the sole signatory,” said Lee Child. “At the time, we were so excited. We had a silent auction and raffle and things. We had a celebrity servers event at Golden Corral.”
Lee Child said Brakefield also handled the ordering of T-shirts that didn’t come until after the event.
“In hindsight, we probably should have realized that there was no money in the account,” he said.
Lee Child said Brakefield kept finding ways to delay handing over the funds until the morning his wife had the appointment to present the checks.
After the money was discovered missing, Pleasant View Detective Jerry Anderson interviewed Brakefield and she admitted to taking the money, Anderson said.
The family has since formed the Brody Spinden Memorial Charity, which runs in accordance with Utah laws for such organizations and has measures in place to ensure against fraud.
Among events the group has held are continued celebrity servers events at Golden Corral.
According to Linda Child’s Facebook postings on the charity site, this year’s June event raised $1,688, and last year a similar event raised $1,560.
There also were postings about fundraisers at Sparetime Family Fun Center and other venues.
Linda Child said the new organization has donated funds to the Lantern House homeless shelter, Your Community Connection and the Shriner’s Hospital, as well as to Primary Children’s Medical Center, where Spinden had spent a fair amount of time in his life.
But Linda Child said her deceased son’s name and the good names of others have been damaged by Brakefield’s actions.
The mother now is looking for evidence that Brakefield actually stole more than the amount deposited in the credit union account by asking those who donated cash at the August 2010 memorial softball tournament to message her on her Facebook page and tell her the amounts they remember giving.