A married couple accused of steadily bleeding nearly $250,000 from a Lower Bucks County youth soccer organization were arrested yesterday on felony theft charges.

Barbara J. Fox, 49, and her husband, John V. Fox, 51, stole more than $237,000 from the Southampton Soccer Association over an eight-year period, authorities said.

The thefts, which began in March 1998, occurred while Barbara Fox served as president and John Fox was treasurer of the nonprofit organization. The couple have since repaid the money by mortgaging their home in Southampton, Bucks County District Attorney Diane Gibbons said.

No one else in the organization, which serves about 700 children, had regular access to the money or the books, Gibbons said.

"It's always the same," she said, referring to embezzlement cases. "It's unmonitored access, and they just can't keep their hands off it." The Foxes were arraigned yesterday afternoon before Magisterial District Judge William Benz and released on $100,000 unsecured bail.

Two association board members had become suspicious last spring, when Barbara Fox told them the club could not afford to make $6,000 in improvements to its soccer fields, according to court records.

A preliminary check of the books found that the Foxes had underreported registration fees by roughly $15,000 in one year alone. The club has an annual budget of about $80,000.

"The last thing you want to do is accuse somebody who is a volunteer without the facts," said William Clark, one of the board skeptics who since has become the group's president. "That's why we started digging and drilling a year ago, so that we could base our investigation on facts, not rumors."

After being confronted in November, the Foxes resigned from the volunteer board, which then hired a former IRS agent to conduct a forensic audit. The examiner found that, beginning in 1998, the couple had stolen between $25,000 and $36,253 each year, writing unauthorized checks to themselves, relatives and others for such things as college tuition, purchases at Sam's Club, and credit-card bills, according to court records.

In all, the thefts amounted to roughly one-third of the association's total budget, Clark said. All of the money has been repaid, with interest, along with the $17,000 cost of the investigation.

The club "will not lose a dime," Gibbons said.

The club has added financial safeguards, including paying an auditor to check its books on a quarterly basis, Clark said.

Contact staff writer Larry King at 215-345-0446 or lking@phillynews.com.