Coach Accused of Bilking Parents, Players

In a letter to the parents, coach Jeff Halter claimed he'd had "a breakdown" and was receiving treatments

By Allison Preston and Natalie Martinez
|  Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012  |  Updated 11:00 PM CDT
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Parents: Coach Took Our Money, Ran

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UPDATE: Halter was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of felony theft

Parents of a group of young baseball players from Northwest Indiana say a man to whom they gave thousands of dollars for uniforms and coaching never delivered on his promises and has disappeared.

In a letter to the parents, coach Jeff Halter claimed he'd had "a breakdown" and was receiving treatments. He promised to return all the money to the parents once the treatments are over.

But Lisa Merrill, the mother of one of the boys on the Deep River Devils traveling baseball team, isn't buying it.

"I think he was just buying time. He can just keep leading us on forever and ever and we'll never see our money," she said.

Hobart police Lt. David Grissom said the department was looking into the allegations and is expected to present several charges of theft against Halter, a resident of South Elgin, Ill., to the Lake County prosecutor’s office.

Merrill and the other parents say Halter swindled a collective $8,000 from them. He promised them upwards of 60 games, uniforms and a practice field at Hobart High School. But Merrill started making phone calls when Halter allegedly stopped showing up for practice.

"Last Monday I called the uniform place, and that's when I found out that he never came in to put the down payment on them, so the uniforms were never ordered," she said.

Police said they later discovered that Halter's resume was padded.

Michael Smith, assistant principal and athletic director at Munster High School, said Monday that the same man briefly was a volunteer coach for the high school, but was never employed there and never handled any money.

Smith said he hasn’t seen the coach in about three weeks. “He said he was no longer able to come,” Smith added.

Merrill said the parents are looking at their options so the boys can still play some ball this year, including becoming another team or playing on the weekends.

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