The Fullerton Rangers youth soccer club will repay the city of Fullerton about $38,000 for a former coach’s use of public fields for private lessons, city officials said this week.

“The former employee was using the (city) fields under the Rangers name while running a club level” private coaching program for kids who wanted to increase their competitive skills, said Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz. “He was using his position within the Rangers as if it was a Ranger activity.”

According to Felz and Parks and Recreation Director Hugo Curiel, the city will get back the approximately $38,000 in rental fees that the former coach, James Obleda, ran up over about four years or roughly 900 hours of private coaching.

Recreational teams can reserve taxpayer-owned fields at no cost, but private coaches must pay rental fees of $30 to $50 an hour, depending on the field. Obleda is the Rangers’ former director of coaching and player development.

Obleda’s attorney, Marc Mitzner, said the coach couldn’t comment on the payment to Fullerton until “unresolved issues between Mr. Obleda and the Fullerton Rangers” are settled.

Felz and Rangers President Munish Bharadwaja said the Rangers agreed to pay the approximately $38,000 after the city prepared a detailed list of payments it said were owed.

Bharadwaja, who became the Ranger’s board president in February, said the organization wanted “to make the city whole.”

It’s been a year of turmoil for the youth soccer club. In February, its former treasurer, Laura Alicia Zellerbach, pleaded guilty to four felonies in connection with the embezzlement and money laundering of more than $174,000 from the club.

The 41-year-old Zellerbach was sentenced to one year in jail, ordered to repay the Rangers $227,000 and will spend five years on formal probation, according to an Orange County District Attorney’s office news release.

In the aftermath of the Zellerbach case, the former board leadership resigned as Bharadwaja and other newer board members and parents insisted on tighter administrative oversight and improved record keeping to prevent future problems.

Obleda, who is also a men’s soccer coach at Rancho Santiago Community College’s Santiago Canyon College campus in Orange, had been a Rangers coach for 13 years, according to his biography on the school’s web site.

It says he is “one of the top youth coaches in the country” and at the Rangers “took a small local club and built it into a nationally recognized powerhouse.”

You can contact Tracy Wood at and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

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