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Police: Ex-Lowell, Kankakee Valley football coach cashed donation checks meant for school

Derek Thompson, 41, is shown in this previous mugshot.

An ex-football coach from Kankakee Valley High School accused of pocketing fundraising donations was arrested over the weekend, according to the Jasper County Sheriff's Department.

Derek A. Thompson, 41, of Lowell, faces one charge of theft, a Level 6 felony, following a months-long investigation into the cash thefts, according to the department.

In December, the state's auditing agency ordered Thompson to repay the thousands of dollars he allegedly stole. The State Board of Accounts has claimed Thompson owes $3,700 in missing money, and $4,793.46 in special investigation costs.

Jasper County sheriff's detectives began their investigation into cash thefts from the school in May, and Thompson resigned June 21 after four months at Kankakee Valley with no public explanation and without ever coaching a Kougars game.

The department said Thompson posted $12,000 cash bond before he was released Saturday.

According to the SBOA's audit, Thompson oversaw a May golf outing to raise money for the football team. Players solicited donations from local businesses that were asked to pay $150 to sponsor a hole at the golf event.

School and bank records show that six checks from sponsors made out to the school were deposited in Thompson's personal account, and money from eight additional sponsors, including five who paid cash, never was turned over to the school district's extracurricular treasurer.

In addition, Thompson requisitioned $1,200 in golf outing proceeds, supposedly for participant cash prizes.

However, no cash prizes were awarded to golfers, and the next day Thompson deposited $1,100 cash in his bank account, according to the audit.

The audit also found that Thompson failed to turn over $250 cash to the school district that he collected through the sale of $100 football "gear packs" to his players.

Thompson declined to comment on the audit when contacted by The Times last year, and also refused to meet with State Board of Accounts officials to discuss the missing money.

As a result, the agency forwarded its audit report to the Jasper County prosecutor and Indiana attorney general for possible criminal or collections actions.

Thompson was an eight-year defensive coordinator for the football team at Lowell High School, his alma mater, prior to being hired in February at Kankakee Valley.

He also was an assistant coach at Lake Central High School and Merrillville High School after playing football at Manchester College.

In July, Thompson was arrested by the Lowell Police Department on allegations he deposited six golf outing fundraising checks worth $875 meant for Lowell High School into his personal bank account, according to a probable cause affidavit.

It appears, however, that prosecutors did not charge Thompson in connection with the incident. As of Monday, Lake County court records show no pending or resolved criminal case against him.

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.