Coach accused of stealing from Hobart youth baseball team

April 25, 2012 4:38:22 PM PDT
Police in Hobart say a team of 11-year-old baseball players is out of thousands of dollars. The money was supposed to go towards uniforms and equipment, but investigators charge the coach stole it.

Elgin resident Jeff Halter, 40, is charged with 10 counts of felony theft. Parents say he collected $675 from each of them to register the team for a traveling league and to order uniforms.

Halter was not yet in custody Wednesday afternoon.

The Deep River Devils are made up of about a dozen boys who have been playing together for a couple of years. Parents hired Halter last fall when he promised that they would be able to join a traveling league where they could play up to 60 games.

The kids began training at Hobart High School, but last week the coach called to inform that their first game of the season had been canceled by the other team. That is when parents began to suspect something was up.

Halfter later failed to show up for a meeting before he finally sent a letter to parents telling them he had had a breakdown, but he promised to get them their money back as soon as his treatment was concluded.

"It's tough because, because now the families don't have the money to start another travel team. So they're trying to play local little league, but it's another $200 per kid for that. So the money is tight for some of these parents," said Lt. David Grissom, Hobart Police Department.

There is some good news for the team: The league has offered to let the team in so they can still have a season, but they will have to pay for that.

The team is getting help from business owners touched by their plight.

"I will do some hats an jerseys and some pants and socks and other things they will need," said James Garner, The Sports Station. "We have had some manufacturers say they want to help out, too. Reebok, Richardson, Wilson have all stepped up when they read the articles this morning, so we're excited about that."

Lacee Moore and her husband own a car dealership in Hobart. They've pledged $1,000 to help with the team's fees and hope to get businesses to donate as well.

"It hit home," Moore told ABC7. "What if those had been my kids and how upset they would have been and that got us going to help out."

Lisa Merrill's son Zach is one of the kids left out in the cold. She's grateful for the offers of help that are now coming in.

"It's awesome," said Merrill. "It makes the boys feel like there are some bad people out there, but there are also a lot of good people. When something like this happens, people will rise up and support the team."

While police say Halter doesn't appear to have a criminal record, authorities say his resume was full of fake information and he does have a history of misleading area schools in order to get coaching jobs.