New Jersey state investigators are reportedly looking into a scandal at Eastside High School in Paterson, which enrolled male and female international basketball players who endured poor living conditions while staying with coaches or other guardians in what one expert said sounded like a human-trafficking operation.
NJ.com, which has extensively covered the developments at the school, wrote today:
Investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice in the Office of the Attorney General are actively reaching out to staffers inside the school and setting up interviews, according to multiple people aware of the process.
A spokesman for the office told NJ.com he wouldn’t “confirm nor deny the existence of investigations.” (Neither the office or a school district spokesperson replied to a request for comment from Deadspin.)
In early February, an NJ.com investigative report revealed six players from Puerto Rico and Nigeria were living in poor conditions with Paterson Eastside basketball coach Juan Griles. At one point, one of the players was exiled from the house and was found “alone and hungry by a district teacher after spending a night alone in a local Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Another player said, according to NJ.com, that “Griles did not provide enough food in the house and that dinner was spaghetti for ‘a whole two weeks’ or ‘just a loaf of bread to last two people for like two weeks.’ ”
Since the initial report, other instances of wrongdoing have come to light: both the boys and girls basketballs teams filling their rosters with international students, sometimes risking the players’ immigration statuses; failing to provide current and former players with acceptable living conditions; and altering at least one international player’s transcript. In early February, Griles was suspended and the school district commissioned an investigation into the basketball teams’ recruiting and living arrangements. Both teams cut their seasons short.
The investigation was conducted by former New Jersey Supreme Court justice John Wallace and he concluded that coaches improperly registered the international players at the school and forced them into unpleasant and potentially illegal living situations, though he said it was for humanitarian reasons, not athletic advantage.
All three reports are below, but the choicest excerpt from Wallace is this:
To be sure, the temporary guardianship of five student athletes by Griles, the basketball coach, at first blush raises suspicions whether he is doing this for an athletic advantage. However, Griles said the first two students were his godsons ... he said he was unaware of the basketball skills of the three international students.
In April, after the findings of Wallace’s investigation were released, the school board fired Griles, along with his assistant coach Alberto Maldonado, and the Paterson Eastside athletic director Gregory Cooper. The women’s basketball coach Ray Lyde. Jr was suspended for a year. Griles and Lyde were not fired from their teaching jobs.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association is also still investigating.