A number of up-and-coming football players are out thousands of dollars after a football scouting camp planner cancelled a tryout camp in Mexico, after players had already arrived in Cancun.
The camp called the Cancun Combine, which is run by sports agent Mark Maren, a Toronto native, offers players without contracts a chance to showcase their skills in front of scouts, coaches and general managers.
The camp advertises that representatives of various football leagues, including the National Football League and the Canadian Football League, would attend to look at talent.
Micah Brown, a football player from Halifax, was supposed to attend the Cancun Combine Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.Micah Brown was on his way to Mexico when he heard the camp had been cancelled. (CBC)
"I was really excited about being in a position to perform for all the CFL coaches and other coaches at one time — it's a great opportunity," said Brown.
He was on his way to Mexico when he heard the camp had been cancelled. He tried to get answers.
"[Maren has] not responded at all. I have sent emails, I have called, I've text messaged, left voicemails, nothing back," he said.
Brown said he received a cancellation email that said the camp was off because the resort was over-booked. When he called the resort, it said that wasn't true.
Last year, the camp attracted more than 70 players who paid to attend from Canada, the U.S. and even as far away as Japan — including five from Halifax.
Online testimonials on the Cancun Combine Facebook page indicate that last year's camp went off without a hitch, even claiming that 35 per cent of participants signed a professional contract.
But this year was a different story. Problems started with organizer Maren last December when cheques started bouncing.
Shannon Doane, a Halifax web designer, said Maren owes her $1,400 for web and design work.Shannon Doane, a Halifax web designer, said Maren owes her $1,400 for web and design work after the cheque he wrote her bounced. (CBC)
"He knowingly wrote bad cheques off an account that was closed. He has made no attempt to contact any of the people he owes money to and I don't think this is a mistake on his part at all," she said.
Halifax photographer Joe Charvella said Maren owes him money as well.
"I am taking it with the Combine page being taken down, him unfriending me [on Facebook], not returning any of my messages, I don't see me getting my money back," he said.
Both the Mexican and Halifax police are investigating. Maren has not had any charges filed against him.
This isn't the first time Maren has been in trouble with the law.
In July 2011, he pleaded guilty in the U.S. to fraud related to bogus cheques. He had to pay fines and restitution of almost $18,000 to two banks and a Florida woman.
Maren was decertified as an agent by the CFL players association last year.
But he still continues to represent some professional players such as former Hamilton Tiger-Cat and current Calgary Stampeder Kevin Glenn.
Maren has not responded to repeated attempts by CBC News to interview him.