Popcorn fundraiser for baseball league under investigation by financial crimes unit

Popcorn fundraiser for baseball league under investigation by financial crimes unit
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:28 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - What started as a simple popcorn fundraiser for an area baseball league has raised a lot of questions.

It’s been two months since Evansville South Baseball ended its fundraiser, but the popcorn orders still aren’t here.

The nonprofit youth league has teams for children ages 3-14.

The issue has even caught the eye of the financial crimes detective for the Evansville Police Department.

Detective Nathan Vancleave tells us there are 96 children in the league.

Parents tell us they are confused about why the popcorn their sons sold for a league fundraiser back in April still isn’t here.

We reached out to the popcorn distributor, the middle man who takes in the orders and buys the popcorn from the manufacturer.

According to the distributor, Tracy Hamilton Incorporated, the fundraiser ended on May 2, but until Thursday morning, the league hadn’t paid what’s due. So, the popcorn was on hold.

A mother who wanted to remain anonymous says she’s worried about her son.

“It’s his first fundraiser, and I hate that he had to go through something like that,” said the mom.

She says her son sold $96 worth of popcorn.

She tells us a month after the fundraiser ended, one of the people her son sold to asked where the popcorn was.

So, she says she texted the president of Evansville South Baseball, Eric Cooper, on June 2.

Cooper wrote, “there was a shipping delay, and they are telling us at least two more weeks.”

Twenty days later, she messaged the league via Facebook and got this response back:

“The popcorn is delayed because the company doesn’t have certain flavors in stock.”

We reached out to the vice president of Popping Popcorn, Chad Wiersma, who tells us the company has not experienced any shortages of popcorn.

“So that was kind of this big red flag. Okay, was there ever a delay? What’s the deal going on here,” said the mom.

Tracy Johnson says his son raised over $500.

“That person that bought that bag of popcorn, it could’ve been their last $12, but they were just trying to help out a child, you know what I mean? So everybody’s going to help out kids,” said Johnson.

The distributor for Evansville South Baseball tells us the league raised a total of $3,120 and $1,438.32 of that was the league profit. The league then owed $1,681.68 to the distributor.

The distributor said the league had made three payments, but still owed the distributor $499.68, postponing popcorn delivery.

After this story aired, the distributor told us the final payment was made Thursday morning.

We spoke with Eric Cooper over the phone last Friday.

He told us the popcorn was paid for and ordered and would be here in seven to ten days.

When we learned there were no orders sent to the company for shipment, we reached back out to Cooper for clarification.

Three calls and two voicemails have been left, but none have been answered.

Johnson says he’s lost trust in Eric and Heather Cooper, the only two people who run the league.

“I would like to see at least the issue pushed. Maybe different managers of the league, maybe just different, just something to be different so this can’t happen to someone else later in the future,” said Johnson.

Detective VanCleave says he is investigating the popcorn problems.

“I have filed a report, and there have been other parents that have also reached out and tried to file a report,” said Detective VanCleave. “And we’re hoping you know that that will put a step into everything else.

Detective VanCleave says if you are a parent of a child in the league, or someone who purchased popcorn, email EPD at: EPDFinancialCrimes@evansvillepolice.com

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