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Former Minnesota athletic director admits to swindling district

ST. PAUL -- The former athletic director of Como Park Senior High admitted in court Tuesday to using his position to swindle the St. Paul school district out of tens of thousands of dollars.

The admission came more than two years after police began investigating Michael Williams Searles’ suspected involvement in more than $100,000 in athletic funds discovered missing from the high school while Searles held the position.

He was subsequently charged last June with one felony-level count of theft by swindle of more than $35,000. After initially denying the conduct, Searles’ reversed course and pleaded guilty to the count Tuesday morning.

There is still some dispute over the exact amount Searles stole from the school district. Gray said in court Tuesday that the amount was around $35,000, but prosecutors alleged it was more like $100,000 in the criminal complaint filed against Searles last summer.

As part of his plea agreement, Searles is not expected to serve any jail time. He is expected to be ordered to serve 500 hours of community service and pay restitution when he is sentenced in August.