The arrest of an El Paso man on theft charges has led residents to question how the city screens people who are coordinating sports teams that use city-owned facilities.
Jose Luis Ochoa was arrested January 5 and accused of accepting hundreds of dollars from parents to pay for softball uniforms and equipment, but allegedly he did not deliver what was promised.
Ochoa maintains his innocence and says the out-of-state uniform vendor he used online stole the money and has disabled its website.
Eric Urenda, one of many parents who gave Ochoa money, has said he paid a total of $350 for his two daughters to pay for registration fees and uniforms.
It was soon discovered Ochoa had previously been convicted of theft.
Court records show Ochoa is serving six years of probation after pleading guilty to felony theft in 2018. He was ordered to pay restitution of $6,030 dollars to his victims.
Additional criminal records show Ochoa has six misdemeanor theft charges from 2001-2008.
El Paso’s screening process states if coaches are convicted, admit guilt or have pending charges for any felony they are disqualified.
The city’s list of disqualifying factors also lists misdemeanors involving drugs, alcohol, sexual misconduct or violence.
When asked how Ochoa passed the background check, the assistant director for El Paso Parks and Recreation said Ochoa was listed as a “point of contact,” but not a team coach.
The city has stated it is only in charge of checking the backgrounds of people who are submitted to the city as coaching staff and does not have oversight over how the teams’ money is collected or spent.
In the meantime, Ochoa was back in court Thursday morning where he was arrested.
The City of El Paso released a statement that read, “The Parks and Recreation Department follows industry best practices in regards to background checks including prohibiting individuals with felony theft convictions.”
The statement added that it is considering expanding its policies. And so it goes.