Former Brandywine coach gambled away team money

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bowling instructor sentenced to probation, community service


James Conrad

A bowling coach at Brandywine High School who resigned earlier this year was sentenced to one year of probation and 80 hours of community service for falsely reporting that money had been stolen from his vehicle, including $350 that was intended to be used for the bowling team.

James Gregory Conrad, 52, later admitted that he gambled away the money at Four Winds Casino in Dowagiac, according to court documents.

“I made a bad mistake,” Conrad said at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing in Berrien County Trial Court in Niles. “I didn’t realize how bad my gambling had got until that happened.”

Conrad pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to file a false felony report, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of two years.

Conrad told police that $1,150 had been stolen from his vehicle when it was parked outside a Niles bowling alley on Feb. 20, according to court documents.

After filing the false report, Conrad said he felt terrible and called police the same day to admit his mistake.

“That’s not me,” he said. “That’s not who I want to be.”

According to court documents, $350 was intended to be used to fund the bowling team’s trip to a regional tournament.

Sentencing guidelines for Conrad were zero to three months in jail, but Judge Dennis Wiley handed down a straight probationary sentence, including stipulations that Conrad not gamble and complete a counseling course on gambling.

Brandywine Supt. John Jarpe said the district decided not to pursue embezzlement charges against Conrad. Instead, the district gave him the option of paying back the money and resigning.

Conrad accepted the offer.

“We didn’t feel it would do any good for the team (to pursue charges),” Jarpe said. “We thought if he quietly separated and made it right with us that would be sufficient.”

Jarpe said Conrad had been the bowling coach for several years.

Also Tuesday:

• Laszlo Alexander Raszipovits, 34, of Buchanan, was sentenced to 48 months in the Michigan Department of Corrections for strangling a female victim on April 21. Raszipovitz pleaded guilty to two counts stemming from the incident: assault with a dangerous weapon and assault by strangulation.

• Zachary Alan Lee, 28, of Three Oaks, was sentenced to 180 days in jail and five years probation on one count of organized retail crime. According to court documents, Lee stole more than $10,000 of items from local hardware stores over a period of a couple months.