Scams Use Berkeley High Athletics in Oakland, Kensington

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District officials said they uncovered an athletic fundraising scam on Friday, when a resident of Glenview in Oakland called to report that a young man was going door to door saying he was raising money for the Berkeley High School baseball team to visit Maui. 

The man said he was a Berkeley High student and a member of the baseball team, neither of which is true, according to school officials. 

According to the resident, the man was offering neighbors the chance to receive books on literacy in exchange for $100 to $500, district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

Coplan said another caller reported a young man selling magazine subscriptions in Kensington to help fund the Berkeley High swim team’s trip to Hawaii. The man, the caller said, said he was a member of the swim team and the son of a neighbor who lived down the street.  

The caller remembered later her neighbor did not have a son similar in age to the young man and called Berkeley High Athletic Director Kristen Glencher to alert her. 

Coplan said the young man told neighbors he was representing the magazine subscription company Quality Services, Inc. (QSI). 

“The trip to Hawaii and any connection to Berkeley High School is not true, and there is no reason to believe that these youths are actually Berkeley High students,” said Coplan, adding that all team fundraising efforts would seek checks made out to the Berkeley Athletic Fund, the Berkeley High School Development Group or the Berkeley Public Education Foundation. They would never ask for cash, he said. 

“The moment a fundraiser encourages you to give cash instead of checks, saying ‘cash is easier for nonprofits to process,’ it should raise a red flag,” Coplan said. 

The district has warned residents about various scams involving people claiming to be raising money for schools in the past. District officials have continually warned community members against offering donations to a man who goes by the name Marcus Robinson. 

Robinson has reportedly been going around Berkeley neighborhoods for 20 years, asking for donations for a program he calls the Bay Area Scholastic Improvement Center, or BASIC, Coplan said. 

“I haven’t heard from Robinson in three to four months,” he said. “The athletic thing is a regular occurrence during this time of the year, so it’s important to warn the community.” 

Questions about school fundraising efforts should be directed to the Berkeley High Athletic Department at 644-8723 or the Public Information Office at 644-6320.