Former Park employee Yonis charged with felony theft

The following article by Steve Brandt was posted on the Star Tribune Mpls. blog on January 17, 2014:

Former Park employee Yonis charged with felony theft


Hennepin County charged former Minneapolis parks employee Hashim Yonis with felony theft on Friday for allegedly collecting money for rental of a soccer field and then pocketing the money.

The county attorney’s office charged Yonis with theft by swindle for allegedly pocketing more than $5,300 after renting to adults an artificial turf field at Currie Park that was built for youth soccer.

The charges follow Yonis’s resignation of his job as a youth specialist with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in late October, shortly before a Park Board election in which he was a candidate:

Park officials moved to fire Yonis in August after an investigation, but later agreed to let him resign:  Yonis, 26, who was also employed by Minneapolis schools, was put on administrative leave by the school district. He worked at South High School.

Yonis could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. In October, when asked about the criminal investigation by park police, he commented: “I believe the county has higher expectations than this petty stuff.”

According to the complaint, Yonis got more than $3,500 in cash from the organizer of an informal weekend soccer league for Latino adults and children.  But the largely East African community round the park began to complain to Commissioner Scott Vreeland and other park employees that fields weren’t available for neighborhood children.

Afterward, Yonis tried to cover his tracks, according to the complaint filed by park police Sgt. Richard Doll, by telling the soccer organizer not to tell park officials that he had rented the field, or he’d not rent to the organizer.  The complaint also alleges that Yonis tried to postdate permits.  In addition to the previous rentals, Yonis said he had collected another $1,320 in cash rentals that the complaint said an investigator and supervisor found in a bag on the shelf of the office used by Yonis, hidden in a pile of notebooks.

The organizer asked Yonis for a receipt for the rentals to show to neighbors, but told investigators that Yonis repeatedly refused to do so.  The complaint said that that he paid Yonis inside an equipment shed at the field, where Yonis would count it and put it in his pocket.

Yonis finished midway down the list of 10 candidates for three at-large Park Board after the news broke.