A Santa Rosa man who allegedly posed as NFL, NASCAR and other sports representatives has been arrested on suspicion of bilking student athletes and their parents out of money.
Aaron Averbuck, 43, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of grand theft and burglary, Sonoma County sheriff's Lt. Steve Brown said.
Posing as a sports official was just one of many ruses detectives suspect Averbuck used to convince people to give him cash for coaching sessions, event tickets, electronics and other goods that he never delivered, Brown said.
"He makes a living with this, that's what he does," Brown said.
The mother of Averbuck's two children, Tammy Fa'agata, 39, of Windsor was also accused of grand theft for allegedly helping Averbuck manage the scheme, including cashing the victims' checks, Brown said.
Fa'agata, assistant coach of Cardinal Newman's softball team, was arrested late Tuesday on campus after an evening game, Brown said. Both Fa'agata and Averbuck were released on bail Wednesday.
About a dozen people reported they lost between $100 and $3,000 to Averbuck, who also goes by the name Komodo Tamakoa, Brown said.
The investigation began about four months ago and reaches back at least a year, leading detectives to suspect far more people have lost money.
"We're hoping that if people were victimized they'll come forward," Brown said.
Several victims include parents of Cardinal Newman students, however none so far are connected to Fa'agata's team, Det. Tony King said.
Sheriff's officials described Averbuck as the charming "con man" who led the scheme. Fa'agata allegedly took a behind-the-scenes role but nevertheless had "extensive involvement and financial gain," King said.
Averbuck attended Little League, high school and college sporting events across Sonoma and Napa counties. He's accused of convincing fellow spectators that he worked for the Oakland Raiders, NASCAR or other athletic groups.
He used those identities to promise hard-to-get tickets and trips to sporting events, then allegedly collected the cash but failed to deliver what was promised, Brown said.
"He puts out there that he knows NFL players, and says, &‘I'll get them to come and spend a day coaching your kid,'" Brown said.
Authorities suspect Fa'agata posed as ticket-selling agents on the phone and cashed the checks, Brown said. She also reaped the financial rewards, he said.
Averbuck also told people he could get them steep discounts on television sets, phones and other electronics at Best Buy, Brown said.
"He'd say, &‘You'll get receipts, it's not stolen," Brown said.
In another alleged scheme, Averbuck would camp out at Starbucks coffee shops in Windsor and Santa Rosa with a computer, befriend other customers and launch into a sale. One case involved getting a cash downpayment for a black Mercedes-Benz that wasn't Averbuck's to sell, Brown said.
Averbuck also allegedly claimed to be a bodyguard for celebrities or at the Playboy Mansion.
Each scheme involved quick up-front cash, then Averbuck would disappear, Brown said.
Fa'agata was hired at Cardinal Newman in early March when the softball season began, Principal Graham Rutherford said. Her role at the school has been "very limited," he said.
"No parent has come and talked to me and told me they were unhappy with her," Rutherford said.
Rutherford asked Fa'agata to stop coaching while the investigation continues. The team has only two games left for the season, he said.