State lawsuit calls multiple fouls on hoops recruiting firm

An upstate New York basketball recruiting business lured players with college and professional aspirations through false claims of providing "the very best" coaching, training and educational facilities only to leave some players crammed into inadequate housing, underfed and enrolled in a school not recognized by the state, New York's attorney general said Tuesday.

Democrat Barbara Underwood announced Tuesday that a lawsuit she filed in a state court in Binghamton seeks to stop AAUConnect in nearby Endicott from "engaging in fraudulent and deceptive conduct."

The company, also known as New York International Academy, boasted of having the best post-graduate girls' program in the Northeast yet had no such program in place, the lawsuit said.

It also said enrolled players were promised "upscale" meals, college-like living arrangements and college-quality playing facilities. Instead, Underwood said players were fed in a "stripped-down room," housed in a "filthy" building and played in community centers and church gyms. The company's claim of having a high school was also false because the owners never obtained authority from the state Department of Education to operate one, she said.

"Students hoping to play college or professional sports shouldn't have to worry that a business is preying on those dreams in order to make a quick buck," Underwood said. "My office will not tolerate those who scam students and their families."

Messages left with AAUConnect weren't returned. The attorney general's office said no lawyer was known to be representing the company yet.

The lawsuit also names Chris Bevin, CEO and managing member of AAUConnect, and his wife Hazel Ward, head of admissions. According to the lawsuit, both live at an unknown location outside the United States.

Bevin's biography on AAUConnect's website lists him as a coach and head of basketball development. His bio page says he attended high school in Binghamton and Seattle, Washington, and enrolled in four colleges over a five-year period. For coaching experience, his bio lists jobs in the U.S. and Europe.

According to the lawsuit, when some enrolled players arrived in Endicott in October 2016, they were placed in a run-down house without a working stove or microwave and no promised cable TV or internet. The $3,000 meal plan advertised as being prepared by an experienced chef turned out to be two inadequate meals a day made by a local cook and only served on weekdays, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks to prohibit Bevin and Ward from owning and operating a basketball recruiting business in New York until they post a $250,000 bond. The lawsuit also seeks restitution for players and their families.