220+ people fall victim to Tri-Cities basketball fundraiser scam

The Benton County Sheriff's Office has arrested a woman accused of using her daughter to scam more than 220 people out of money for a fake basketball team.

Deputies arrested 36-year-old Amanda Jo Smith on failure to comply misdemeanors on April 4, but the thefts occurred months before.

On Jan. 26, a Kennewick police officer noticed a car moving from house to house near 33rd and Wilson Place, according to court documents. The car would stop and a young girl would go up to a person's door. Officer Shepherd approached the car and recognized Smith from a similar previous contact.

Smith told the officer that she and her 10-year-old daughter were collecting donations for her AAU basketball team, the "Washington Rebels," to attend the Honolulu Classic in Hawaii.

She handed Shepherd a ledger of about 41 names, addresses and donated funds. Court documents say the ledger appeared to be handmade and stated the tournament was from Feb. 15-17.

The woman then pulled up a website to show the dates of the tournament. When Shepherd asked Smith about her daughter's team, she said it was a small team out of Seattle that practiced out of Ellensburg. She said the officer wouldn't be able to find it online.

Smith told the officer the coach's name was Anthony Clayton and provided his phone number. According to court documents, the phone number came back to someone named Sal.

Officer Shepherd told this information to the woman. 

"Amanda did not have an explanation and just stared at the officer," court documents stated.

No other documents to prove the fundraising was legitimate could be provided by Smith. That's when the officer told her to leave the area.

Before leaving, he took pictures of the ledgers of the donors. Shepherd also e-mailed the point of contact to determine the legitimacy of the Washington team Smith claimed was playing in the basketball tournament in Hawaii. 

Sharice Green, tournament coordinator for the Honolulu Classic, responded by saying she did not have a Washington Rebels AAU team registered. The only team registered from Washington was called "Local Hoops."

Court document said this information confirmed that Smith was using her daughter to fraudulently collect funds.

Benton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Erik Magnuson said she stole about $2,400 from donors since January. 

Smith is facing criminal charges that include nine counts of theft and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Additional charges may be added as investigators work to uncover more potential victims. 

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