I-Team: Coach in Hot Water Over Alleged Scholarship Scam - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Coach in Hot Water Over Alleged Scholarship Scam

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Buck Thomas' Mugshot Buck Thomas' Mugshot
Travis and Jim Hendry Travis and Jim Hendry
Buck Thomas Buck Thomas

LAS VEGAS -- Parents hoping to secure valuable college scholarships for their children may have been scammed for thousands of dollars. Those are the allegations against the owner of a Las Vegas batting cage business.

Jack Thomas, or "Buck," as he's known in local college baseball scouting circles, was arrested late last month. The charges include felony theft. The arrest comes after the I-Team began talking to parents who say Thomas stole thousands in a scholarship scam.

"The dream is to get up into the pros, obviously. But I'm a realistic kid. I know the chances are really small so I'm going to school for education," said Travis Hendry.

Hendry was second in pitching strikeouts at Cimarron High School, and led his baseball team in singles and doubles. His parents hoped that would lead Travis to scholarship opportunities, so they turned to Coach Buck, who co-owns the Team Vegas batting cages. Thomas has a good reputation for using his contacts as a part-time major league scout to connect Las Vegas baseball standouts with lucrative college scholarships.

"He guaranteed Travis a baseball scholarship," said Jim Hendry. "He just said he knows a lot of people and he has a lot of contacts."

Hendry paid Thomas more than $3,000, but he says he got nothing for that money -- no calls, no emails, no help for his son. Hendry took Thomas to small claims court and won his money back when Thomas was a no-show in court. But Thomas didn't pay the money back.

"At the end of the day, if Buck just used his things and did his job -- he's a very personable man and he does know a lot of people -- but you just can't take somebody's money and then simply just not do anything," said Hendry.

Similar complaints started to come in from other parents, but they say they fear retaliation against their children in the tight-knit local baseball community if they came forward about Thomas.

Thomas agreed to be interviewed inside the office of his batting cage business.

"I think the issue is that sometimes parents think their kids are better then they are," he said. "We simply say, 'I'm going to do my best to secure you an opportunity to play at the next level.'"

Thomas adds he successfully worked with 67 students last year, helping them get college scholarships. Some former students say Thomas' services were worth the money their families paid him for scholarship assistance.

"I loved it, though. He go me exactly to where I needed to be. He got me to the college placement -- exactly where I wanted," said former student Danielle Nolan.

"The one thing I do tell my parents is, if in fact they do graduate and there is nothing, nothing has come from my service, I'll go ahead and guarantee them their money back. Because it's not about taking kids money," said Thomas.

But sources were telling the I-Team Thomas had a warrant out for his arrest, an allegation Thomas said he wasn't aware of. But he was arrested last month on two separate felony counts of theft and bad checks. At his arraignment, Thomas didn't show up and his attorney could not explain to the judge where his bail money came from.

Despite the money his parents lost, Travis Hendry now plays baseball for a junior college in Kansas, honing his skills with hopes for a Division I university.

"I couldn't imagine my life right now without baseball," he said. "It's the most important thing to me, besides family."

Earlier today, Thomas said he has recently paid the $12,000 he owes on his felony arrest warrant. He adds, "The bills are paid. The doors are open."

He continues to deny any wrongdoing with that case or any college scholarship disputes.

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