Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A local youth basketball program says it was scammed out of thousands of dollars.
The Syracuse Elite Hoopstars
are among hundreds of basketball teams around the country claiming they were scammed by David Kelly Sr., the president of the 'Elevate Basketball Circuit
Kelly contacted the Hoopstars last year with a "vision:" to give top youth basketball teams the opportunity to compete against each other.
"It was just about exposure for the kids to play people from all over the country, teams from Canada to Texas and everything in between," says Syracuse Elite Hoopstars assistant coach John Paninski.
The coaches liked the idea and, just like that, the Hoopstars became a part of the Elevate Basketball Circuit.
Parents dished out $400 per player, and the 13 and 14-year-old Hoopstars were scheduled to compete in five AAU tournaments.
This past weekend, they had their second tournament in New Jersey.
They played their games on Saturday but when they showed up to the gym on Sunday, things changed.
"There were a bunch of kids and coaches in the parking lot and the doors were locked. Nobody was there to let us know what was going on. We started looking for David Kelly to see what was going on, or if people were running late, and he had deleted his Twitter, Facebook, and the Elevate Basketball Circuit webpage. He deleted everything overnight," says Paninski.
Confused and angry, the team drove home.
The next day, parents, coaches, and recruiters from around the country took to social media in a Twitter frenzy.
No one could get in touch with Kelly.
NewsChannel 9 called him too, but he did not pick up.
We were able to get in touch with Lamont Taylor, a North Carolina recruiter
, who had been hired by Kelly to attend tournaments and write evaluations about players.
He was at an Elevate Basketball Circuit tournament in Georgia this past weekend when the program unexpectedly shut down.
"I'm in a business where we're here to help kids that want to make it to college. They may be in bad circumstances and they may be looking for a way out of bad circumstances. To see him give up on them, that was disheartening for me. It's a really hard pill to swallow when you disappear in the middle of the night," says Lamont Taylor, recruiter for GetMeRecruited.com.
Late Monday night, David Kelly Sr. resurfaced with a letter he posted online to coaches and players
"In the end, our cash flow could not cover our operating costs in both the short term and the long term. We simply did not run a very good business and could not raise enough capital to cover this reality," Kelly said.
Nowhere in the letter does it say when or if teams will be reimbursed.
"I just feel bad for the kids. And the parents, some don't have a lot of money. They put this money in for their kids and now, they're just out," says Paninski. "I hope he gets held responsible."
Syracuse Elite Hoopstars coaches say they will be holding a meeting later this week with parents and players to discuss their plans for the season.
At this point, the boys have no games scheduled, so coaches are hoping they can set up a tournament.
But money is an issue because they don't know if they're going to get reimbursed any of the money they lost.
David Kelly Sr. is from Kentucky, and he recruited many basketball teams in New York and Georgia. We reached out to the Attorneys General offices in all three states. None of them had received complaints about Kelly at this time, but if people want to file consumer protection complaints, they can do so online.
New York: File a complaint online
or via Attorney General Schneiderman’s consumer hotline by calling 1-800-771-7755.
Kentucky: File a consumer protection complaint online
or, call the consumer protection office at 502-696-5389.
Georgia: File a complaint via the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection online