HOBART | An Illinois man was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of theft for allegedly stealing $8,000 that was supposed to fund a Hobart youth baseball team's uniforms and tournament fees.
Jeffrey S. Halter, 40, of South Elgin, Ill., was charged in Lake Superior court and is expected to turn himself into Hobart police, Police Lt. David Grissom said Wednesday.
Parent Lisa Merrill, of Hobart, said she contacted police after she discovered her 11-year-old son's traveling baseball team coach, Halter, had taken close to $8,000 from parents. It was money earmarked, but never paid, for tournament fees and uniforms.
And money from families wasn't all that was taken, Merrill said.
The team, which called itself the Deep River Devils, lost out on its chance to play as a traveling team through the Northern Indiana Baseball League because of the matter, Merrill said.
"The boys put their coach on a pedestal, and now they're crushed because he yanked everything away," she said.
Merrill said she called police on March 19 after Halter set up a meeting with parents at Hobart High School and then never showed up. In a letter Halter wrote to parents, he apologized and said he was undergoing treatment for a mental breakdown.
Halter also promised he would return the money he took, Merrill said.
She said parents first met Halter, who formerly lived in Hobart and was a boyfriend of another player's mother, last fall, and the families talked about forming a team.
Halter claimed coaching expertise and said the team would be able to play some 60 games in both Illinois and Indiana, Merrill said.
Halter also told parents the cost would be $675 per player with $45 due immediately for practices at the Hobart High School field house, Merrill said.
Although plans for a travel team this season are dashed, Merrill said the boys have permission to form a team through the Hobart Little League.
And, since news about the team's issues have surfaced, Merrill said her phone has been ringing with offers of assistance.
James Garner, owner of the Sports Station in Tinley Park, Ill., has offered free uniforms, hats and equipment for the boys.