A Shelby Township man is accused of defrauding the Macomb Township-based charity, , and five local families out of $12,000.
Thomas Anthony Pippa, 42, will face trial in June after police arrested him, saying he charged fees for a nonexistent Amateur Athletic Union team in Shelby Township in addition to the fee for fictional player, Juan Valdez.
Pippa is accused of six counts of false pretenses between $1,000 and $20,000, and though he is now free on bond, will face a June trial before Judge Matthew Switalski in Macomb County Circuit Court.
Angels of Hope officials said they gave Pippa more than $2,000 to cover fees for the player Juan Valdez, and five families contributed almost $2,000 a piece for their children to play on the nonexistent AAU team.
Steve York, who sits on the Angels of Hope Board of Directors, expressed his organization's disappointment with Pippa's treatment of the families involved and Angels of Hope, but declined to comment on the case prior to the June trial.
If Pippa’s fictional “Juan Valdez” sounds familiar, it is because it is also the name of a popular Columbian coffee and the character featured in the product’s advertising.
Macomb County Circuit Court records show Pippa has one prior felony conviction. In 2007, he was charged with "uttering and publishing" and plead guilty to a reduced charge of passing a no account check. Judge Diane Druzinski sentenced him to two years probation and ordered him to pay $4,700 restitution.