‘Homeless’ teen basketball star was imposter

An Odessa Permian high school basketball player, who identified himself as Jerry Joseph, right, drives against against Midland High on Jan. 26, 2010

ODESSA, TEX.—A 22-year-old man accused of posing as a high school basketball player in Texas was released from jail Wednesday.

Guerdwich Montimere posted $500 bond a day after he was arrested on a charge of failure to identify himself to a police officer, said Ector County sheriff’s Sgt. Debbie Bruce.

School officials said Montimere admitted posing as Jerry Joseph, a 16-year-old sophomore who led Permian High School to the state playoffs. Permian is the same school made famous in the football movie “Friday Night Lights.”  Suspicions about the player’s identity first arose when three Florida basketball coaches familiar with Montimere recognized him last month at an amateur tournament in Little Rock, Ark. Montimere graduated from Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale in 2007.

The six-foot-five Montimere presented himself as Joseph after moving to Odesa in February 2009 and enrolling as a ninth-grader at a junior high, said school district spokesman Mike Adkins. He showed officials a Haitian birth certificate indicating he was 15 and claimed he was living with a half-brother in the dorm of a local university, Adkins said.

Montimere then moved in with Permian boys basketball coach Danny Wright, Adkins said.

Permian administrators said they received an anonymous email April 27 that alerted them to Montimere’s true identity. Officials initially rejected the allegation, and a judge granted Wright legal guardianship that allowed Montimere to remain enrolled at the school, Adkins said.

But school officials, police and ICE agents confirmed Montimere’s identity Tuesday, and he confessed after being confronted, Adkins said. The district said Joseph claimed to be an illegal immigrant from Haiti, but authorities determined he was actually a naturalized U.S. citizen from Haiti.

If convicted of the misdemeanour, Montimere could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Bruce said there was no record of a lawyer for Montimere.

The allegations against Montimere mean Permian will probably have to forfeit the 2009 basketball season in which it advanced to the playoffs. Montimere was named newcomer of the year. “I feel like I was hit by a ton of bricks,” district athletic director Leon Fuller said. “In my 50 years in education, I’ve never heard of anything like this.”

Wright said the player was like a family member.

“This affected a lot of people. The whole school of Permian embraced that kid. He deceived us and played on everyone’s emotions,” Wright said.

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