Atwater assistant football coach pleads not guilty to embezzlement and real estate fraud charges

10/22/2013 7:03 PM

10/23/2013 4:33 PM

A former loan officer and current assistant high school football coach faces more than two dozen real estate fraud charges in connection with the suspected theft of more than $13,000.

Sammy C. Parker, 63, has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of embezzlement and 23 misdemeanor counts of fraud, according to Merced County Superior Court records.

Parker is an assistant football coach at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater, authorities confirmed.

Charges against Parker stem from his time as loan officer at International City Mortgage and the Mason-McDuffie Mortgage Corp. in Merced.

Prosecutors say Parker defrauded more than a dozen clients from at least August 2011 until January 2013, when Parker was fired from International City Mortgage, according to the complaint filed by the Merced County District Attorney’s office.

Investigator Anna Hazel identified at least 29 suspected victims who collectively lost $13,688, an investigation report says.

“He has given several different reasons for taking the money,” Hazel said Tuesday. “But they all boiled down to him acknowledging that he took the money.”

Hazel said Parker initially blamed his stepson, who Parker said found checks in Parker’s dresser drawer. He said his stepson wrote Parker’s name on the checks, deposited them into Parker’s bank accounts and then withdrew the money, according to the report.

“Parker stated to (a bank official) that he had no knowledge of what his stepson had done at the time,” the report says. “However, when prompted ... Parker could provide no explanation as to why Parker had clients write the checks in the first place or what those checks were doing in Parker’s home ... ”

Hazel said Parker also claimed he took the money because his family was struggling financially, and later he indicated that he felt International City Mortgage was not paying him fairly and believed they owed him the money.

Parker did not return numerous phone calls on Tuesday seeking comment. His attorney, Joseph Welch, declined to comment.

According to investigators, Parker asked borrowers to write $400 checks for “appraisal fees” and had the client leave the “payee” portion of the check blank, promising to fill out the name himself once an appraisal company was selected. The report claims Parker then put his own name on the checks and deposited them.

International City Mortgage fired Parker Jan. 24 and contacted the District Attorney’s office, the report says. A phone call to the company was not returned.

Parker was arrested Aug. 5 and booked at the Merced County Jail. He posted a $43,000 bail bond and was later released. He is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 19, according to court records.

“We’re aware of the investigation into Sam’s practices and, when we were informed, we cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s office,” said Jason Frazier, an executive vice president at Mason-McDuffie.

Aside from his loan-officer career, Parker has been an assistant football coach at Buhach Colony High School for the last six years. Before his tenure in Atwater, Parker was an assistant coach at Golden Valley High School for several years.

Kevin Swartwood, head football coach at Buhach, was unaware of the criminal charges filed against Parker and declined to comment Tuesday.

It was not clear if anyone from the school district was aware of the criminal case or if the coach plans to be on the sidelines Friday when Buhach Colony High School plays its homecoming game against Golden Valley High School.

It was also unclear if the Merced Union High School District has any policy regarding coaches facing criminal charges interacting with student athletes. Numerous phone calls to Superintendent Scott Scambray and Assistant Superintendent Craig Chavez were not returned Tuesday.

According to Merced Sun-Star archives, Parker was an assistant football coach at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1980s and played on the team in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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