SAN DIEGO — Parents of children in the San Diego Youth Football and Cheer (SDYFC) league are looking for answers after they say one of their coaches took money for an out-of-state game and pocketed it.

“It’s sad. I wanted my son to get an opportunity to not only play football, but have good male mentors in his life and I’m really sad that’s not what he got,” said league parent, Jessica Johnson.

FOX 5 spoke with Johnson and another mom from the team, Sofia Aguais, who say that thousands of dollars paid by more than a dozen families for expenses associated with the game are unaccounted for.

“Fifteen families, which is almost half of the team,” said Aguais. “I believe all together he collected about almost $12,000, still owed is like $9,500.”

The parents tell FOX 5 that the money was collected by the San Diego Bolts 11U assistant coach back in July for an out-of-state game and team trip to Hawaii, claiming he would book accommodations.

Aguais said the Bolts’ assistant coach told families that he had a family member who, “could get airfare tickets as well as discounts on hotels.”

However, just days before that trip in August, the women say the assistant coach backed out and urged others to cancel as well. A significant portion of the funds paid towards the trip were never refunded.

“We’re on however many ‘tomorrow’s’ at this point if he’s going to meet me with my money,” said Johnson.

“One million excuses to this day,” both Johnson and Aguais added.

Parents have reached out to the SDYFC league leadership as well as the San Diego Bolts board of directors with no real resolution.

“You allowed this (assistant coach) to coach our kids and he stole money from us,” Aguais said. “At the end of the day, it is like embezzling money through a youth sport — that’s how I see it, because I haven’t gotten any confirmation receipt and I haven’t gotten paid back.”

The Bolts board told FOX 5 in a statement that the assistant coach was suspended as a result of this situation. They added that the board does “not control how this former assistant coach refunds these families, but we have been doing everything in our power to try and rectify this situation between both parties.”

SDYFC sent its own statement, saying in part “as you may or may not know, SDYFC is a governing body, which oversees individual teams / organizations that are individually formed and operated. SDYFC directs you to the former Bolts 11U Head Coach for further comment.”

“There wasn’t an investigation into what he did that actually involved all 15 parents and their individual stories,” said Johnson.

Affected families have been offered to work the weekend snack bar at games where they would earn a percentage of sales to recover some of the money lost. Johnson and Aguais say that they are not satisfied with that option.

“Weird that I have to work for money that was already mine,” said Johnson.

The women asked to be refunded league registration fees totaling about $400, but were denied. In total, Johnson said she paid the assistant coach $819 and has received $100 back from him. Aguais’ family reportedly paid him $2,999 and have received $125 back.

Johnson and Aguais are now sharing their experience as a lesson for other parents, as it is not something the two expected they would have to tackle.

“You can’t be as trusting unfortunately,” Johnson said. “We were meant to ask more questions and I’m hoping that the league will use this as a learning experience to create better policies.”

She suggests the league implement a formal way to track travel and expenses that parents sign off on at the beginning of the season along with other standard forms and waivers.

FOX 5 reached out to the former Bolts assistant coach, but he said he wanted to see the story air before sharing any comment. After FOX 5 followed up, he declined to comment.

FOX 5 also spoke to the former Bolts head coach who hired the assistant coach in question. He said the league is responsible for all background checks on coaches.

The statements made by both the Bolts board of directors and SDYFC can be found here:

San Diego Bolts Board of Directors:

San Diego Youth Football and Cheer league: