SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) — The former CEO and head coach of a South Bay swim club has been ousted after being accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of the club’s money, according to authorities.
Santa Clara Police Captain Wahid Kazem said his officers were told Saturday morning about the alleged embezzlement case involving the club.
“The allegations are very serious. The Santa Clara Swim Club is a very well-known establishment within our community,” said Kazem.
According to the club’s board members, longtime CEO and head coach John Bitter has misappropriated an estimated $600,000 or more of the club’s money.
The Santa Clara Police Department is in the beginning stages of its investigation into the embezzlement case.
“It’s us stepping in and understanding the business practices of this club, their finances, the roles and responsibilities,” said Kazem. “And so we’re truly at the investigative stage.”
At an emergency meeting on September 27th, the SCSC Board unanimously voted to terminate Bitter as CEO and head swim coach effective September 28th.
A letter dated September 29th obtained by Swimming World Magazine that was sent by the board to swim club members said: “We realize that this may come as a shock to most of you, and please understand that there were solid circumstances that led to this decision.”
The letter continued, saying the board was “…in the process of working with authorities and USA Swimming has been contacted.”
Swimming World Magazine said Bitter had been involved with SCSC since 1995 and became the head coach at the end of 2006. In 2009, he was named the club’s CEO.
His swimmers have gone on to become national, junior, and Olympic qualifiers. Many attend top-ranked swim colleges like the University of Georgia, the University of Virginia and Rice University to name a few.
Although the Santa Clara Police Department often deals with major theft cases, due to being in the heart of silicon valley, this case is different.
“But this one is a little bit more…it hits home, because of the fact that Santa Clara Swim Club is such a well-known organization within the city, that this one is not your average or your standard one to us,” said Kazem.
Because the allegations are so large, Kazem said police will investigate the financial structure of the swim club, interview all parties
involved and take their findings to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for further action.
Bitter couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but Kazem said he has been cooperative with the investigation.
KPIX 5 visited Bitter’s home and left a message on his voicemail, but did not hear back from him for comment on the accusations.
The swim club is closed for maintenance Wednesday and no one from the club returned our messages to comment on camera either.
The Santa Clara Swim Club is not associated with the Santa Clara. It is a private club and has no city oversight. A meeting for its members will be held in the future to provide more details about the investigation.