Police sergeant among 8 charged in alleged high school football records scheme
A Port St. Lucie police sergeant has been arrested, along with four others, as part of an alleged scheme to falsify records so that student-athletes could attend and play football for Martin County High School, even though they lived outside the residential boundaries.
Sgt. Robert Vega turned himself in Wednesday night after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement obtained a warrant for his arrest stemming from a criminal investigation that began last year, police spokesman Sgt. John Dellacroce said Thursday.
The arrest warrant shows Vega, 48, is being charged with perjury and grand theft.
Vega has been on paid administrative leave since September 2022. He'll now be placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Dellacroce said.
According to the FDLE, eight people have been charged. Vega and four others were arrested, while three others remain at large.
The investigation began in October 2022 when Port St. Lucie police Chief John Buldoc asked the FDLE to investigate Vega and his brother, Assistant Chief William Vega Jr., "regarding a scheme to recruit students from outside of the county to play on the Martin County High School football team."
An anonymous complaint alleged that the Vega brothers – both of whom were volunteer coaches with the team – used the addresses of current and former Port St. Lucie police officers, among others, to claim the student-athletes lived in Martin County.
According to the FDLE, six parents filed fraudulent documents with the Martin County School District, using forged lease agreements as proof of residency, and changed their driver's licenses to reflect the fraudulent addresses. They have been identified as Nixalys Vega, 46; Jose Soto, 43; Jeron Atwater, 41; Lisa Stone, 47; Guilnar Saintelus, 40; and Nancy Davino, 48.
Robert Vega, Nixalys Vega, Atwater, Stone and Saintelus were booked into the Martin County jail Wednesday.
William Vega, the former assistant chief who has since resigned, Soto and Davino have outstanding warrants.
Consequences of high school football players transferring
Andy Villamarzo, who covers high school football for SB Live Sports, said people make jokes about the "high school transfer portal" due to the number of players transferring each year. He said it's often difficult to keep track of.
"I can't tell you how many times I thought a kid was at one school and now he's at another," Villamarzo said.
He said one time a reporter saw a student at a school's media day and then saw him play for a different school after he transferred. Villamarzo said the biggest consequences are for the schools and kids, who don't get to play.
"It's kind of demoralizing to a program to know that somebody who was with them through workouts and previous games is going to be a potential opponent," Villamarzo said.
Scripps Only Content 2023