MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis middle school is strengthening security measures after a man allegedly posed as a volunteer there in a scheme to sell or give away tickets to the Southern Heritage Classic.
Problem is, Jason Smith wasn't a volunteer at Sherwood Middle School — and SHC founder Fred Jones said the $2,300 check he used to buy the tickets bounced.
And worse, Smith has a criminal record in other states, including convictions for passing bad checks.
Smith even went so far as to create a fake website listing himself as administrator of a program called Watch D.O.G.S. at Sherwood Middle.
By the time they figured it out, Jones said, Smith had gotten away with 100 tickets to the annual football matchup between Jackson State and Tennessee State at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday. Jones said he sold and gave away the tickets. It's unclear how much he made off the scheme.
“He had a website, email address, all of it pointed back to Sherwood Middle. When we initially checked it out, it looked legitimate,” Jones said. “That was a red flag because no school going to get that many tickets, so I knew immediately something was wrong."
The tickets were invalidated and 69 of them were recovered from the principal at Sherwood Middle. People who have the remaining tickets either got them or bought them from Smith.
Memphis police say they have no record of this being under investigation.
But Shelby County Schools issued a statement saying that a staff member at Sherwood Middle hadn't followed protocol by allowing Smith into the building. All visitors will now be screened by the principal.
"We are very disappointed that a person would take advantage of our hardworking educators who are committed to making a difference in the lives of children every day," the school district's statement said.
"This person presented himself as a volunteer and was allowed in the building by a staff member who did not follow the appropriate protocol for visitors. As a result, the principal is requiring every volunteer to be personally screened by him before they are allowed in the building.
"Should this individual attempt to visit one of our campuses again, the authorities will be notified immediately."
Smith responded to the allegations by text, saying that he is suing Shelby County Schools and Jones.
"Plus I will be making a formal statement with my attorneys tomorrow," Smith wrote. "But I will say this, Shelby County Schools put me under the bus, and Mr. Jones said and did things that were not supposed to be done."