Credit: Needham Observer

Rhiannon Heckman, former president and cheer coordinator of the Needham Junior Football and Cheer program, and her husband, Caley Heckman, a former NJFC board member, are accused of taking more than $60,000 from the volunteer-run youth recreational program. 

The NJFC filed a civil complaint May 9 in Norfolk Superior Court alleging the Heckmans engaged in a scheme to defraud the organization by taking funds that were intended to purchase equipment, fund events, support general operations and fund camp and other sporting opportunities. The complaint alleges fraud, fraudulent conversion and breach of fiduciary duties.

The matter is also under investigation by Needham police, who have referred it to the court seeking criminal charges. NPD was notified of “an ongoing series of larcenies” on March 1, according to the police log.

Documents in the civil case say the Heckmans “breached their fiduciary duties to NJFC when Rhiannon retained and took NJFC monies, lied about taking and/or retaining those moneys to various board members, and when the Heckmans kept the converted funds for their personal benefit.”

When reached by phone for comment, Rhiannon Heckman told the Observer, “I know nothing about this,” and ended the call.

According to the complaint, a total of $61,540.54 was taken by the Heckmans beginning in 2022 and continuing until January 2024 through a variety of improper actions, including withdrawing funds from NJFC accounts at Needham Bank and converting them for their own use; using a NJFC debit card for purchases benefitting themselves; fictitious purchase of cheerleading uniforms; creating fake invoices for vendors and keeping the reimbursements; blaming third parties for nonexistent bank errors; and taking the proceeds from annual raffles. 

The court filing says the discrepancies were uncovered by a newly elected NJFC treasurer in early 2023. As she reviewed the books and records, the court document said, “initial concerns about discrepancies grew to eventual concerns of fraud and theft, as the NJFC Board recognized that Rhiannon consistently failed to provide explanations for debits, failed to deposit fundraising proceeds, and withdrew monies for unsubstantiated expenditures, with excuses that fell apart when fully investigated.” 

In a written statement to NJFC families on May 1, board President Paul Corwin said the board discovered a breach of trust “by one of our fellow members in connection with the financial management of the organization. As soon as this issue was brought to the Board’s attention, we took immediate action. The individual in question was immediately removed from the organization, our financial accounts were secured, an internal investigation was initiated, and counsel was retained. Ultimately this matter was turned over to the appropriate authorities to pursue. The Board is also working with advisors to implement internal protocols to avoid something like this ever happening again,” he wrote. Corwin’s statement said none of the fall 2024 registration fees were affected and the program will proceed.

Rhiannon Heckman also was the cheerleading coach at Needham High School during 2022-23, but she no longer works for the Needham Public Schools. Asked about her departure, Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst said he could not comment on personnel matters, adding, “I’m not aware of any financial impropriety involving our cheering program, the coach, or anything to do with the Needham Public Schools.”

The Needham Junior Football and Cheer is a nonprofit organization that began in 1993 and includes athletes from Needham and Westwood. The competitive tackle football program is for students from grades 4-8 and the cheer program includes students from grades K-8. 

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