An image from World's Finest Chocolate's fundraiser page. A parent teacher student association treasurer at Stemmers Run Middle School in Maryland stole from the association's fundraiser proceeds to bet on sports. An image from World’s Finest Chocolate’s fundraiser page. A parent teacher student association treasurer at Stemmers Run Middle School in Maryland stole from the association’s fundraiser proceeds to bet on sports. (Image from

Around the increased legalization of sports gambling, there have been a lot of stories of people misusing funds to place bets. One recent case saw former Jacksonville Jaguars employee Amit Patel plead guilty to stealing more than $20 million from the team, with much of that spent on daily fantasy and sports bets on FanDuel. On a much smaller scale, but with perhaps even a greater impact on the organization stolen from, Essex (Baltimore County, Maryland) man James Michael Harris pled guilty this week to stealing $29,000 from the Stemmers Run Middle School parent student teacher association, with much of that spent on sports betting websites:

Here’s more on that from that Baltimore Banner story, by Lillian Reed:

James Michael Harris, 46, was treasurer for the parent teacher student association affiliated with Stemmers Run Middle School in Essex when he drained the nonprofit’s bank account and spent money raised by the students through a chocolate bar sale. Baltimore County prosecutors said theft totaled $29,000 and occurred between April 2022 and March 2023.

Authorities charged Harris for having sticky fingers after a parent and a school administrator grew suspicious and confronted him. He admitted to moving the money between PayPal accounts before spending it on himself and online gambling sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel, said prosecutor Adam Lippe.

The theft dealt a serious blow to the school, which mainly serves children from low-income households. Gone are the after-school snacks for Stemmers Runs’ student-athletes, the seasonal schoolwide dances and the Teacher Appreciation Week gifts — all niceties that the PTSA used to sponsor. The students’ chocolate bar fundraiser alone would have generated $9,000 for the school, said Rosemary Roos-Whitney, president for the PTSA.

“Those kids worked so hard to raise that money and they got nothing for it in return,” Roos-Whitney said Friday. “It’s really disappointing.”

As the story goes on to note, the theft from the chocolate sales alone had major impacts on the school association. There, they not only didn’t make that $9,000 in proceeds, but wound up owing the chocolate supplier $3,407.50. That’s half of their original debt, a settlement negotiated after they explained and provided documentation of the theft.

Meanwhile, Harris is facing up to 10 years in jail. But the state agreed to suspend sentencing for six months while he continues to make restitution; he’s paid back $8,000 to date, with more to come. However, the association is still out a lot of money, and many of their parent volunteers quit in the wake of this. They also haven’t been able to fill the treasurer position. And many have commented that we are seeing lots of stories like this around the growth of sports betting, and will likely see more still:

As Tinsley (an author and senior culture writer for ESPN’s Andscape) notes, stories of lives ruined from gambling long predate the current era, but the ease of sports betting now does seem to have boosted them. And the growing discussion around athletes, teams, leagues, and media outlets partnering with gambling outlets is a not-insignificant part of that.

Of course, there are responsible gaming efforts from each of the gambling companies. And it’s not just betting companies that can be questioned: NASCAR in particular had long-standing deals with tobacco companies until 2010 Food and Drug Administration rules prohibiting those advertisements in sports, there are countless alcohol partnerships across sports, and bowl sponsors like military contractor Radiance Technologies have taken plenty of criticism. But the expansion of sports gambling has led to an increase in stories like Patel’s and Harris’, and to increased accompanying backlash for these partnerships. We’ll see if that backlash continues to build.

[The Baltimore Banner]


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.