WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — It's hard to become a professional athlete. So, when an Ohio man got an offer to play football overseas, he was all in. However, the person recruiting him to play was playing him the whole time.
Desmond Stanley has been tackling his dream to play professionally for a long time.
“I started playing football when I was about 5,” the Willoughby, Ohio, man said.
After graduating from Lake Erie College last year, he put his video highlights on the internet. He was determined to catch a break.
“I thought I had a great opportunity with this Japan thing,” Stanley said.
In late March, Stanley thought he scored a job after getting text messages from a man who said he was in Japan.
"I was looking for a new opportunity," Stanley said. "It seemed like it was perfect."
The supposed recruiter used the name of a real Japanese football team, sent Stanley a contract, and told him to pay for some processing. Stanley sent money through Western Union.
"You'll get the job immediately. They might not even interview you,” said Sue McConnell from the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland. She said job scams were among the top 10 most used schemes that hit the Cleveland area in 2018. “Suddenly, it turns sour because they are either going to want money from you for some kind of test or certification."
And that's what happened to Stanley. He was told to pay nearly $1,000 more to make the job complete. Stanley said no.
"The agent stepped in and he was like, 'What can you pay? I'll help you,'" he said.
Stanley said he did his homework on the job offer, even asking experienced people in the sports industry to look over the contract.
"Everyone who I spoke with said it seemed ... it seemed legit,” Stanley said.
This isn't the first time a scam like this has popped up. According to an article from American Football International, a similar scam in 2017 lured athletes with big dreams by claiming to be a football team out of China. The wording on the contract the scammers used is nearly identical to the one Stanley received.
"They were pretty good, I guess," Stanley said.
So good they got hundreds of dollars from Stanley. The text messages stopped. No more contact.
Stanley hopes his dashed dream serves as a warning.
"I definitely wanted to try to help people in the future not have this happen to them," he said.
Stanley said he has a friend who played professionally in New Zealand and even he thought the fake offer looked real.
It fooled some experienced players, so don't let it fool you.