Athletics ‘scam’ bothersome to school administrators | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Athletics ‘scam’ bothersome to school administrators

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

South Tahoe High School administrators are concerned about a number of “scams” being perpetrated on residents from people claiming to be affiliated with local school athletic programs.

Companies with names like Sports Promotion Network, Scoreboard Productions and Universal Advertising solicit funds from various businesses throughout the community, ostensibly for school athletic posters, calendars, magnets, keychains and other ‘booster-oriented’ material. Local business owners, believing these companies to be affiliated with the school, give money to advertise in their publications, sometimes paying up to $350 for the space.

Many of these companies claim that some percentage of their profit will go to the school.

However Don Borges, athletic director at South Tahoe High, said the school has “not seen a dime” from any of these outside solicitors since these particular “scams” invaded the community about three years ago.

Borges keeps a file in his office devoted entirely to information on these companies called “sports promotions that are bad.”

“We want to warn the community about these bloodsuckers,” Borges said. “We want to put the word out that there are people trying to take money away from South Tahoe High School and the city of South Lake Tahoe in the name of South Tahoe (and) it never comes back.”

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Borges said the companies come from as far away as Illinois and Texas and are never locally based.

“The way to nail these people is to ask for a (local) phone number or address,” he said. “They’ll give you an 800 number because they are not in the community. (Also), there will never be a kid soliciting money (unless accompanied by a coach).”

Borges urges anyone who is contacted by an individual claiming to represent the school or its interests to contact STHS Vice Principal Marilyn Pawling, who is in charge of fund-raising.

“If there is a question, call her to make sure everything is on the up-and-up,” he advised. “These are very aggressive companies. What they promise and what they do are two different things. I would call them scams, con artists, and I won’t use some of the other terms I could use. They are the lowest of the low (who) lie, steal and cheat people out of what they think they’re going to get.”

“We do the best we can to protect our merchants,” said South Tahoe Associate Principal Jack Stafford. “This town is incredible. They give until it hurts (and are) great supporters of the school.

“The people they contact are all well meaning and they send their money away,” Stafford added. “We aren’t seeing the money (and) we feel that if they would just leave us alone, 100 percent of the money from the community would go to the school. They do this in big cities and I guess they can get away with it, but this is a small community.”

Stafford likened it to a “sweat-shop type of thing where they have people sitting there making phone calls.”

The toll-free telephone numbers for Sports Production Network and Universal Advertising, two of the companies who have solicited funds in the community, went unanswered after several dozen rings.

A woman who gave her name as Rita Holt of Scoreboard Productions said her company is legitimate, claiming that a percentage of proceeds from the sale of school magnets by local cheerleaders at pep rallies will be returned to the school “eventually”, though she couldn’t say when.

She said the company “just started doing this” but wouldn’t say exactly when, or even what year the company opened. When pressed for information, Holt refused further comment.

“We don’t even give out our real names,” Holt said.

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