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Schools warned of fundraising con that trades on choking game tragedy

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Scammers were at work at a Del Oro High School football game. And in a twisted turn to a tragedy days earlier, used a fake fund-raising scheme in the wake of the death of Bear River High School student Justin Butler as their ruse. Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District superintendent, said today that he has sent a warning out to school officials alerting them to look out for scams similar to the one that took place Thursday afternoon during freshman-junior varsity games at the Del Oro field in Loomis. “Apparently a group of at least two were walking the stands saying they were selling 50-50 tickets to benefit the family of Justin Butler and then walking away before the end of the game,” Horsey said. That follows a report of a similar scam – but without the fake plea for funds to help Butler’s family – taking place at a Bear River-Woodcreek game the week before in Rocklin. Butler died last Monday of apparent strangulation after participating in what his parents say they believe was a choking game. The Bear River High School student and football player was 16. Horsey said that people can fall prey to a fund-raising con because they’re used to fund raisers taking place during games. Spectators should take a few precautions before handing over their money to a perceived fund raiser, he said. “All fund raising is announced on the football public address system,” Horsey said. “If it’s not, that’s a good sign that something’s wrong.” Fund raisers at games will be carrying some form of school or parent-group-related identification and people should ask for it, Horsey said. Horsey, principal at Placer High School before becoming superintendent, said he hadn’t heard of a similar scam taking place in the district in his time there. “If people suspect something, they should report it at the gate or ticket booth,” Horsey said. “We have a teacher or administrator there and we also have resource officers at all football games.”