ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - It's hard to forget the raging rant from Elmo Green that 5 on Your Side showed us earlier this month. Green lost his cool when Mike Rush confronted him about thousands of dollars in softball tournament fees the coach failed to return to teams. Since then momentum continues to build around our investigation, including a statewide investigation and even more victims than expected.
Spring softball practice is in full swing and right out of left field, an unexpected surprise thrown in from the season before. Darren Zobrist coaches the Highland "Luna-chicks."
"Here this past week in the mail comes the check for a refund, so I was quite shocked," said Coach Zobrist.
It's almost $400 the team has been waiting for for nearly eight months. It's the entry fee for a canceled tournament last summer in Rolla. After seeing Green's reaction on NewsChannel 5, the young players didn't think the money would be returned.
We approached Elmo Green last month about the team's money. Through his organization called "Black Ice," Green put on softball tournaments, including the one in Rolla the Luna-chicks saved up for. The money was collected from selling candy bars and holding car washes.
5 on Your Sidespent nearly six months trying to locate Green and the girls' money. When Mike Rush finally found the coach, Green was less than happy to him. Soon after our story, the checks started rolling in. Aside from the Luna-chicks refund, another coach in St. Charles told 5 on Your Side his team got part of its money back, and umpire Rick Petty credits our report for pressuring Green to continue payments on the $5,000 he's owed.
When authorities in Rolla, where the tournament was scheduled, and Jefferson City,where Green lives, didn't pursue Green, Five on Your Side contacted the Missouri Attorney General's Office. Joe Bindbeutel is Chief Counsel for the Consumer Protection Division of the Missouri Attorney General's office.
"We certainly appreciate the lead that we got from your news organization," said Bindbeutel.
His office opened an investigation and 5 on Your Side encouraged our contacts to report thei losses to his office and spread the word.
Bindbeutel says there are more victims than estimated by the Amateur Softball Association of Missouri. In fact, the attorney general's office has identified as many as 50 teams with stories similar to the Luna-chicks and says the losses go beyond tournament fees.
"There are some organizations, and some schools and some teams that actually got involved, and were actually sharing the expenses of throwing the tournament and there could be many thousands of dollars at risk in those," said Bindbeutel.
5 on Your Side reached out to Green once again, but never heard back. Why he's paying now remains as much a mystery as it is a surprise to those who are getting refunds.
Missouri's Attorney General's office says it's too soon to know if criminal charges will come out of this investigation. It still wants to hear from anyone else who didn't get their money back from Elmo Green.