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JONESBORO, Ark. – Amanda Allison wants to know where the money her son’s baseball team raised went – and she’s not alone.
Serious questions are being asked about the whereabouts of a huge amount of money missing from the bank account of a boy’s baseball team in Jonesboro.
The team is called Arkansas Stealth and is an All-Star Traveling team from Northeast Arkansas. It is made up of eleven 14-year-old boys from across NEA and according to the police report, they play and practice at different locations in the area. They even play out-of-state.
So while signing up for events and using a bank account to pay entry fees, insufficient fund notifications began coming in. This puzzled parents like Allison, 33, of Jonesboro, and the assistant coach, David Phillips, 52, of Paragould.
Money the children had raised in fundraisers, combined with fees paid by parents to help fund the project, had seemingly vanished from the “Arkansas Baseball” bank account at Southern Bank in Jonesboro.
Unsure of what was going on, Phillips reached out to the person in control of the account and the baseball team, head coach Derek Lee, 50, of Jonesboro. According to the report, Phillips and several other parents were unable to get an answer about the missing money.
The report goes on to say the parents and Phillips scheduled a meeting with Lee about the missing money for Monday, June 20.
Lee did not show at the meeting, the report said.
An estimated $20,000 went missing from the account 14-year-old baseball players were counting on to be able to play the sport they love.
Phillips wife told NEA Report over the phone, “We all trusted him.”
NEA Report attempted to reach Lee at a publicly listed home phone number several times Friday but no one answered calls. A fax machine eventually picked up.
Phillips said he was just the person to get the ball rolling on this and he had eight or nine families who were just as angry.
“I lost $1,500 on this ordeal,” Phillips said.
In addition to coaching, his son also plays with the team. Phillips said now, the boys won’t be able to play at the state tournament, which began Friday, June 24.
“We’ve got 10 unhappy boys,” Phillips said.
Allison said the baseball team was started last fall and had a great first season. With the spring rolling around, parents began paying the $1,150 fee to let their child play.
“We decided to go to a national tournament in Kentucky,” Allison said. “Derek paid the deposit of $750 to go to the national tournament. Then, he started trying to convince us in May we shouldn’t go.”
Allison said Lee tried telling parents “the money wasn’t there,” and “fundraising was behind.” It discouraged the parents into backing out.
“We took a vote and decided not to go, since none of us wanted to go anymore,” Allison said.
But the curious mother began digging into the details and she said she found out Lee had pulled the team from the tournament in March – two months before asking parents about it.
“We were raising funds the whole time,” Allison said.
She said checks were bouncing as early as March, which she thought led Lee to pull the team from the tournament.
“We started looking into more stuff and found out our team’s check bounced making the uniforms,” Allison said.
She said almost $15,000 should have been in the checking account from the $1,150 per-player fee collected. With extra money added in from fundraisers, the total should have been around $20,000.
She said there was no money in the account.
Even raffle winners who helped support the team have told Allison they never received their prizes, she said.
“No one knows where they are,” Allison said. “Coach Lee has them.”
In her experience with sports teams, Allison had seen many using expenditure reports about money coming in and going out. She said she asked Lee about the idea and he “lost his marbles.”
“He has made contact with a couple of people the past few days and said the books would be right,” Allison said. She also said Lee has threatened to sue her and the other parents for reporting him to the authorities over the matter.
However, the mother of a young boy who won’t get to finish his baseball year because of the ordeal was unphased by the threat, she said.
“We would love to have our money back but really we just want him to stand in front of the boys and apologize for what a lousy thing he did to all of them,” Allison said.
NEA Report made several attempts to reach Lee that were unsuccessful. However, he released this statement to Region 8 News about the incident.
“Thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight and get truthful information reported. As you are aware, there have been accusations regarding the operations of a baseball team. I want you and the KAIT 8 viewers to know that these allegations are either 100% false or based on incorrect information.
There are people in this world that thrive to ‘stir the pot’ and cause as much drama as they can. And unfortunately, [some team parents] are the main instigators in this action for the above-stated reasons.
It started when the team, both the parents, and the players, completely fell apart this past weekend. As the coach and individual that started this team 5 years ago, I made the decision that our season was over after the recent events were discovered. It has been my goal to have players AND parents of good character. However, this has been a constant struggle this past season with regards to both. There was nothing good that would have come by putting boys, who had recently been very disrespectful to each other about their level of play on the field together, thus I made the decision to end the season. Along with the additional fact that it was not going to be a positive environment between the parents and myself once it was revealed that false allegations and accusations were being made.
It is very regrettable that the acts by a few caused a premature ending to the season. At this time the season has ended, and because I have been attacked as the head coach/founder of the team, the decision has been made to hold all team funds to pay for any legal representation necessary to defend these ridiculous and false claims. It should be noted that the season just ended this week and a reasonable time frame has not even allowed for the closing of the books. Thank you for providing honest and credible reporting to your viewers.”