Today's lesson, boys and girls, courtesy of WFAA's Craig Civale and the Lewisville police: When you appear to be running a racket that involves importing a high school basketball player from Mexico only to force him to sell gourmet popcorn at suburban big box stores, it's probably a bad idea to invite the cops to the shitty apartment where you're keeping the kid.
It's a lesson that Theodore Berry, an assistant basketball coach at Lewisville High School, never learned, according to Lewisville police, who are accusing the coach of human trafficking. A grand jury has not yet charged Berry, authorities say, and he has since been released on bond.
The boy's story, according to the Lewisville detective who signed the affidavit you'll find below, goes like this:
In 2008, Berry traveled to Mexico and met a young player named Cesar Landin. He told Landin and his parents that he coached "select" youth basketball teams, and that for $300 a month the boy could stay with Berry and play on one of his teams. The parents agreed, and over time paid Berry $2,000, but with one condition: Their son would not, under any circumstances, sell popcorn for Berry's nonprofit popcorn-selling operation.
OK, so: If I'm renting my kid to a stranger for less than it costs to lease an Acura, I'd probably want the stranger to stipulate to more than just the Popcorn Clause. But alas, this was the agreement. And the parents told police that Berry didn't live up to it. Did a lot worse too.
Landin, now 16, arrived in North Texas in August, police say. The boy moved into a Lewisville apartment with the coach -- a TV-less, Internet-less place that by the end of this story would be covered in gourmet popcorn. He also enrolled in Lewisville High School, where Berry is a teacher. (He's now on leave, according to WFAA.)
By the end of August, over the boy's protests, the coach was driving him to a Sam's Club in Richardson and telling him to sell popcorn. When Landin balked, the coach threatened to "kick his ass," the boy told police. Afraid of getting his ass kicked, he dutifully sold the popcorn.
The threats and the popcorn-selling continued into September, around Lewisville and as far away as a Walmart in Alamo. All the while, Landin told police, he played no basketball with any select team, and couldn't even find time amidst all the popcorn-selling to do his homework. When the boy called his mom for help, the coach cursed her out too.
After a blow-up at a 7-Eleven, Landin called Lewisville head coach Gary Collier, who picked him up and -- according to Landin -- drove him back to the apartment, furnished him with a small TV and some DVDs to watch and left him there. Alone. (I have a message in for Collier). Berry left the apartment, and the next day Landin's parents arrived from Mexico to pick him up. Before he left the apartment, he dumped popcorn everywhere.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
This, apparently, was very upsetting to Berry, who, upon returning home to find his apartment covered in popcorn, called the Lewisville police to report the boy. They arrived around the same time that Landin and his parents arrived at the Lewisville police station. Berry was arrested soon after. Landin is back in Mexico with his family, police say.