For months now, the News 4 Tucson Investigators have told you about a local youth sports league with a troubled past. Now, new details are emerging about the man behind that league.
Zona Sports Zone has been the focus of a Better Business Bureau alert. The league's organizer, Charles Sommers, has definitely made some enemies in Southern Arizona.
He's been tough to locate, not returning multiple calls and emails. It turns out; he's been here all along. Sommers seemingly eluded the News 4 Tucson Investigators for several months. He has also eluded several parents who seem to want their money back.
LaNah Laplander became familiar with Zona Sports Zone after her granddaughter’s basketball games were canceled, just as the season was getting underway. She told us, that was just one of many alleged shortfalls.
“I was afraid that it was a scam. I really was. Because my son would try to contact him, because he was a coach, and he wouldn't return his phone calls, he wouldn't return his texts. It was just 'hey, I’ve got your money – goodbye,” Laplander said.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators found numerous complaints from parents who also allege a lack of reimbursement, promised pizza parties that only led to empty stomachs, trophies that were never given, and coaches being told they'd have to find their own practice fields.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators looked for Sommers for some time, including at an acquaintance's house, but he was nowhere to be found.
Then, a lead recently emerged in the form of a mysterious letter. It helped point parents, and the News 4 Tucson Investigators, toward Sommers.
“I thought it came from him. Kind of giving me a clue as to what he was doing with his life,” Laplander said.
That clue turned into concrete evidence and we were able to track Sommers down at a home.
He opened the door and identified himself, but then quickly closed it. Sommers then refused our repeated requests to come out of the home and speak with us, to get his side of the story.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators have also found that Sommers recently took a job at a local school district.
“What example is he setting for these people, and these children in this school district? He isn't,” Laplander said.
We also learned that the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona has issued an alert for Zona Sports Zone, and given it a failing grade for the complaints about broken promises and lack of refunds.
"I'm not upset about the money. I'm upset that he took an opportunity away from my kid,” added Brandi Ohnheiser, a Sierra Vista parent, who lost her daughter’s soccer registration fee to Sommers.
“At the very least, we deserve an apology,” Ohnheiser added.
At this point, their recourse is only civil. Sommers is not facing any criminal charges.
If you have something you would like News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the news 4 Tucson investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.