National News

Teens claim they were left homeless after recruited to Phoenix-area basketball club

Posted December 8, 2017 11:30 a.m. EST

— Two teens from Venezuela claim they were recruited to a Valley club basketball team but wound up homeless when the president kicked them out for no good reason.

Robinson Dominguez and Luis Velasquez, both 19 years old, speak limited English. They are now living with host families thanks to a non-profit helping homeless high school students.

"They've been told for so long that they're going to be deported if they tell anybody," says Tarinda Craglow with Homeless Youth Connection. She's been working with the teens since they were kicked out of Elite One Academy.

Craglow says the non-profit is now assisting five student athletes who traveled from other countries to play with Elite. She believes the president was housing students at various locations and not providing adequate room and board.

Craglow says one of the student athletes invited her to one location where more than 20 students were living in terrible conditions.

"It was absolutely filthy," says Craglow. "There's food in there, but it is expired and bad."

AZ Family spoke over the phone with Tamica Goree, then-president of Elite One Academy. She says the academy is no longer operating due to lack of sponsors and claims Dominguez and Velasquez were kicked out of the program for stealing from their housemates. Goree denies any allegations of mistreatment and claims about a dozen students were enrolled when the academy closed its doors early this year.

Craglow says Homeless Youth Connection is working with the Department of Homeland Security as part of an investigation into Elite One Academy. Goree admits she is communicating with DHS, but the matter does not involve the league's operations. She did not elaborate on her conversations with DHS.

A spokeswoman for DHS said it is aware of Goree and Elite One Academy but said the federal agency is not able to provide a statement.

Buckeye Police says it had prior cases involving Goree and the mention of Elite One Academy. A spokesperson says officers investigated possible child neglect reported by the Department of Child Safety but learned the victim was actually an adult. Detective Tamela Scaggs says the case detective reached out to Homeland Security and worked with Phoenix Police and Mesa Police because the law enforcement agencies also had cases involving Goree.

Dominguez and Velasquez are living and studying here with expired visas. Craglow says the non-profit can help them for now, but it cannot provide services indefinitely.

"I can get them to graduation, but they can't go to college unless they get a scholarship," says Craglow.

"They can't get a job because they can't get a green card. They must have no possible hope."