Man indicted for stealing thousands from county sports comm.

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PHOENIX - His name is Michael Benson and he's been indicted on nine counts of theft for stealing thousands of dollars in government funds.

Benson faces serious allegations
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Benson is accused of mis-spending more than $40,000 during his time as the head of The Maricopa County Sports Commission.

The indictment includes receipts from some the most posh local resorts, bars and restaurants.

The problem according to County Attorney Andrew Thomas is none the expenditures were approved.

Thousands of dollars spent at local Scottsdale resorts like Kierland, the Mondrian and the Valley Ho, along with a lavish trip to the Ritz Carlton in the Cayman Islands.

This is just a few of the expenditures considered criminal by the County Attorney's office. They are investigating the almost $41,000 spent by Benson while executive director of the Maricopa County Sports Commission between May 2006 and July 2007.

"This defendant is accused of living a lavish lifestyle fueled by funds from the sports commission," County Attorney Andrew Thomas said.

Now a grand jury has indicted Benson on nine counts of theft.

According to the indictment, Benson obtained a debit card on the commission bank account without approval.

"He withdrew $200 from Bourbon Street Circus a Phoenix strip club and purchased health club memberships for his daughter's lacrosse coach and her boyfriend," Thomas said.

The Maricopa County Sports Commission now known as the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission has been working since 1989 to help bring national and international sporting events to Arizona.

The sports commission is a non profit that receives funding from various government and private sponsors.

According to the County Attorney when Benson was hired the commission's bank account had more than $144,000 in it, but has dwindled to just $23,000.

Suspected of mismanagement of funds the board pressured Benson to resign.

3TV spoke with Benson over the phone and he said "I am very disappointed it came to this point.I am proud of the success we had while I was with the sports commission. I eagerly look forward to defending myself against these allegations and I stand on my 20 year history, success and ethical behavior in the sports industry."

3TV was unable to reach anyone with the sports commission for comment.