What to Know
- The Maryland SoccerPlex and the Soccer Association of Montgomery had previously required yearly background checks for employees.
- One man, Carmelo Montanez, was able to keep coaching after his arrest because his yearly check had already occurred.
- After the I-Team revealed Montanez' arrest, SoccerPlex and the Soccer Association implemented year-round screening for employees.
A major Maryland youth sports organization has upgraded its background checks for adult employees because of the findings of a recent News-4 I-Team investigation.
The Maryland SoccerPlex, which operates leagues and camps for about 23,000 children, said it has implemented an ongoing, year-round background screening system for its 500 adult employees.
The SoccerPlex and its Soccer Association of Montgomery had previously required only one annual background checks on most of its coaches and workers, prior to the beginning of the fall soccer season.
The prior background system appeared to have failed last year, according to an April report by the I-Team. The report found Carmelo Montanez, a man arrested in Fairfax County for trying to sexually exploit a young boy, was able to continue coaching youth soccer for the Soccer Association of Montgomery after his arrest.
The league said it was unaware of Montanez’s arrest until the I-Team notified SoccerPlex officials.
SoccerPlex executive director Trish Heffelfinger said the prior, once-a-year background check system failed to flag Montanez’s arrest, because the arrest occurred weeks after Montanez’s annual background screening.
Heffelfinger said, "(The I-Team) report got us thinking. Maybe there is a better way to do this."
In a formal announcement of a new contractor to conducted the year-round, ongoing screenings, Heffelfinger said, "The security and safety of our youth players has always been our top priority."
She said the new system will issue an alert league officials if any employee or coach is arrested.
The Maryland SoccerPlex includes 24 soccer fields in sprawling section of Germantown. Monday was opening day for some the organization’s youth soccer leagues.
Montanez was arrested by Fairfax County police after attempting to lure what he believed to be a 12-year-old boy to leave Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax to engage in sexual activities. The person he thought he was soliciting was instead an undercover Fairfax police officer.
Fairfax police said their investigation did not reveal evidence Montanez engaged in illegal activity prior to his arrest in Fairfax County in late 2014.