If there's one thing kids are into these days, it's bullying each other. It would be nice if they would stop, but they won't listen to parents or teachers. It's scientifically proven that the only people kids will listen to are NFL players, preferably at a special schoolwide assembly. So when public school districts in Maryland and Virginia were approached with a proposal—to have Ravens and Redskins players come speak against bullying—they jumped at the chance, to the tune of thousands of dollars. The one-man "consulting firm" Odyssey Group took the money, never bothered to line up any players, and ran.
The Anne Arundel County School District was approached by one Joseph Gill, who promised CB Lardarius Webb or another unspecified Ravens player. (The Ravens tell us neither they nor Webb were aware of any such agreement.) In all, 17 schools in the district paid Gill more than $14,000 for appearances, but were informed just a few days before the scheduled assemblies that no players were coming. (That letter can be found below.) The schools were given an option: refunds, which have not materialized, or an appearance from former NFLer Levar Fisher.
"I just feel terrible that this guy is using my name, other players and speakers names, because all you have is your reputation and integrity," said Fisher. "Right now I don't even know what is going on or where the schools are, or what part of their country they're in."
Fisher is now a motivational speaker who once retained Gill as his promoter, and says Gill owes him more than $30,000. He's been running this scam since at least 2007, when he was promising schools in Western Pennsylvania former Steelers, then disappearing.
Gill is the prototypical small-time crook who wants to be big-time. He's been in and out of jail for the past 10 years on charges like money laundering, child support and bounced checks. His son, who says he has no relationship with his father, claims the elder Gill stole from him and other business associates. Eye On Annapolis reports that Gill had judgements placed against him from a payday loan business for $780. Odyssey Group appears to have lost its license to do business long ago.
We reached out to Gill, who referred us to his attorney. Phone calls have not been returned, but we will update if we hear back.
Update: Not in Good Character: 17 County Schools Owed $14,100 for No Show Ravens Appearance [Severna Park Patch]
Former NFL pro says area schools were scammed [Northumberland Echo]