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Human trafficking allegations lead to investigation of powerhouse HS

Both the Eastside High School girls’ and boys’ basketball programs are out of states after allegations and questions concerning immigration elligibility and human trafficking of players over the last four years.

Courtesy of Andrew Mills/NJ.com

Paterson, New Jersey-- Both the Eastside High School boys’ and girl’s basketball teams have been removed from postseason play after revelations concerning illegal immigration and human trafficking within both programs.

On Friday morning, NJ Advance Media published a wide-ranging investigation into the two programs. According to NJ.com, at least eight international players entered the programs over the past four years. This has lead to investigations by the state of New Jersey, and is now drawing the attention of federal agencies.

NJ Advance Media went on to detail how seven Nigerian athletes were enrolled at the school over the past four years, and lived with coaches. An eighth athlete from Paraguay, listed a man as her guardian “who said he was not.” They went on to detail how the students likely violated immigration laws:

“At least seven athletes arrived in the U.S. with a Form I-20, according to school officials from around the country. An I-20 is a federal document issued by Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified schools to foreign students who then use them to obtain a visa in their home country. Eastside, according a website managed by the Department of Homeland Security, is not certified to issue I-20s. This means at least seven athletes likely violated their immigration statuses and could face removal from the United States.”

District officials and teachers were initially concerned about the welfare of the student-athlete from Paraguay when they learned that she had no sort of “living allowance,” and was bouncing from home to home. It was then discovered that athletic officials could not produce key paperwork for the athletes, such as transcripts and guardianship changes. This began to raise red flags for district officials concerning the well-being and eligibility of the athletes.

The boys’ program had already withdrawn from the county and state tournaments, and their head coach and assistant coach were suspended. About six hours after NJ Advance Media’s article was published, the Eastside girls program also withdrew from their upcoming tournaments.

Eastside High School also announced that their athletic supervisor Gregory Cooper and girls’ basketball coach Ray Lyde Jr. were both suspended without pay. Lyde was also suspended with pay from his district teaching position. According to NJ Advance Media, the Paterson school district placed Scott Durham, the Paterson Kennedy athletic supervisor, in charge of oversight for Eastside athletics for the rest of the school year.

The full NJ Advance Media investigation can be found here.