Fundraising Hoops Coach Accused of Human Trafficking

An assistant basketball coach at Lewisville (Texas) High School has been charged with human trafficking after allegedly forcing a student-athlete from Mexico who was living with him to work against the player's will. According to the Associated Press, Theodore Berry was arrested Sept. 28 and placed on unpaid leave from his teaching and coaching duties. A police report indicates Berry, 46, repeatedly threatened 16-year Cesar Landin because the boy - whose parents were paying Berry $300 a month for Landin to live with him, attend Lewisville High in suburban Dallas and play basketball for the coach's club team - refused to sell gourmet popcorn for that team.

According to an affidavit obtained by the Lewisville Leader from the Lewisville Police Department, Landin said that instead of playing club basketball, he "was forced by threats of violence to sell the popcorn in the city of Lewisville, Texas, or he would be beaten." The report also states that Landin's parents knew Berry was involved in fundraising, but told him Landin was not to participate in the fundraising. Landin said he was forced to sell the popcorn from Aug. 29 until he called his parents Sept. 17 to tell them what was happening, the report states. According to Landin, Berry "shoved" him when he learned that the boy had contacted his parents.

Police spokesman Kevin Deaver told local reporters that Berry was charged under a new state law that took effect in September specifically making forced labor prosecutable as human trafficking. The charge is a second-degree felony that carries a prison sentence of two to 20 years.

Lewisville ISD spokesperson Karen Permetti told the Leader that the district was notified of the incident Sept. 22. Berry was hired in August, and the district is now in the process of terminating him. Landin reportedly has already left Lewisville High. "My understanding is that he brought a child from Mexico because the child's family was wanting a better life for him," Permetti told reporter Heather Goodwin. "And it looks like the coach took advantage of the family situation."

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