TOWANDA -- A teacher is charged with forging checks and stealing thousands of dollars from a youth wrestling club in Bradford County.
After a year-long investigation, state police arrested Robert Watkins and accused the teacher and coach of stealing about $20,000 from the Towanda Youth Wrestling Club.
Watkins teaches social studies at the Towanda Area Junior-Senior High School. He also coaches the junior high wrestling team.
According to arrest papers, the president of the youth wrestling club told state police money was missing, and someone was forging the president's name. Troopers say that man was Watkins.
"It makes you wonder what people can do. You never know," said Crystal Barrett of Towanda, who has a daughter in high school.
Barrett says Watkins broke the trust of a teacher-student relationship.
"(I'm) shocked and upset. I feel bad for the kids and parents that did all the fundraisers for all that money. It was just heartbreaking," Barrett said.
Court papers indicate that Watkins wrote a check from the wrestling club for $9,600 to repay a loan he took from his retirement fund. Another check for almost $2,000 went toward a new sink being installed at a club.
Troopers say Watkins also took thousands of dollars through a series of ATM withdrawals.
"That money should be going to all those kids. I am sure they raise money throughout the year, and families put a lot of time and effort to raise money for these kids so they can do something positive with it," said Stacey Hrivak of LeRaysville.
Hrivak is an elementary teacher at Northeast Bradford Elementary just outside of Sayre.
"We are supposed to be role models, especially in small communities. We need to teach our children not to steal and to always tell the truth and always do the right thing, so it's shocking for this to happen in a small community," Hrivak said.
Watkins is free on bail but is due back in court next week.
The Towanda Area School District would not comment on the situation.