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YMCA executive accused of sex crime involving teenager, Ashtabula Police say

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 10:27 PM EDT
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ASHTABULA, Ohio (WOIO) - A top executive at the Ashtabula YMCA was placed on administrative leave. He is accused of sexually abusing a teenager.

We are not naming this man because he has not yet been charged.

The alleged victim shared his story for the first time on 19 News.

He told us the YMCA employee took advantage of him.

Manny is now 20 years old; he didn’t want to show his face or use his last name.

He said he was only 17 when he first met the YMCA executive in 2019.

“I was homeless,” said Manny. “I was 17 years old, and I initially ran from my foster family because they were abusive.”

The YMCA employee who was more than twice Manny’s age offered to let him move in, without many options, Manny accepted.

“While I’m living there well, he is making these dirty jokes and they’re really pervy, like pervy jokes that I don’t even find funny,” explained Manny. “But I didn’t want to, I felt like I had to laugh at, like his jokes. I didn’t want to get kicked out.”

Then something happened that made Manny even more uncomfortable.

“We go to the Y and he shows me all the spots where he took these, I guess, at the time, people around my age, so like 15, 16, 17,” recalled Manny. “He told me like places where he would take these young people into the Y to have sex with them.”

Eventually, it escalated.

“I felt like I had to do what I had to do in order to stay there,” Manny admitted.

Manny said he felt forced to engage in sexual activity with the YMCA executive because he was giving him a place to stay and he was controlling his money.

Manny said he had several jobs and his checks would go into an account controlled by the YMCA executive.

Eventually, Manny had had enough and in 2021 he moved out.

Shortly after that, he reported what happened to YMCA Membership Director Megan Brydle.

“To me very much it felt like they swept everything under the rug,” admitted Brydle.

After months of going back and forth – Brydle said nothing happened - so she quit.

“I was sickened, and it wasn’t something that I could let go of,” Brydle said. “I can’t imagine a 17-year-old kid being afraid to come forward and say something and no one listening.”

A week ago Manny filed a police report with the Ashtabula Police Department.

According to the report, police are now investigating the YMCA employee for a sex crime.

Police said they couldn’t give me much information but that it involved an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor.

“I have an 11 and a 13-year-old of my own and to think that something like that could happen to them or any other child that walks into the Y and at the Ashtabula YMCA more often than not those kids are coming in because they’re in foster care because their parents just don’t have time for them and drop them off,” Brydle said. “They’re troubled kids who look for guidance and for grownups to do the right thing.”

It wasn’t until the police report was filed that the YMCA’s board finally took action.

19 News learned the YMCA placed the executive on paid administrative leave.

They also appointed someone to fill his shoes in the meantime.

Investigator Kelly Kennedy went to the YMCA to try to get some answers from those at the top.

When she got there, she was told no one in management was there.

The board president did eventually call her back, but he refused to do an on-camera interview.

Instead, he sent 19 News a statement.

The board’s president said the YMCA takes the safety of children very seriously.

He also said that “these allegations are not consistent with the facts as I know them to be.”

He went on to say, “Approximately six months ago, the YMCA Board became aware of a prior relationship between Mr. Sprague and an employee of the YMCA.”

According to the president, their investigation determined no YMCA policies were violated and the board decided not to make any personnel changes.

The statement went on to say that children and adolescents are not allowed to engage in any type of private messaging with their adult staff members and that out of a quote “abundance of caution” the YMCA executive has been put on leave.

19 News is going to continue to follow up with the police as they investigate and push for more answers from those in charge at the YMCA.

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