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Jason Ford knew how much good high school girls softball players desire positive attention from college coaches that might lead to a scholarship. And, using modern era impersonation, Ford tried to manipulate that desire to satisfy his own desires.
That’s according to Ford’s guilty plea in Fort Lauderdale federal court to a charge of attempting to produce child pornography. The 42-year-old owner and general manager of Alabama-based Elite Lady Sox Fast Pitch Softball Team imitated assistant softball coaches from the University of South Carolina and the University of North Florida in text message conversations with players.
According to Ford’s admission in court documents, the University of North Florida police went to the FBI’s Jacksonville office on Nov. 28, 2017, after learning somebody had been impersonating assistant softball coach Jeff Conrad since January 2017.
When the faux Coach Conrad texted and emailed players in Florida, Alabama and Tennessee, Ford’s admission says, “he referred to and asked questions about, their clothing size. The imposter coach requested, among other things, that (1) the girls text more often and (2) the conversation be kept private.”
When living the Conrad lie, Ford used the email address Jconrad17@yahoo.com. That traced to Dothan, Alabama’s public school system, where Ford worked for Northview High School. The phone numbers used for texting the players connected often with Ford’s phone number.
In February, the University of South Carolina police and the FBI Columbia office acted out the same scene that their Jacksonville counterparts had two and a half months earlier. The coach’s name that Ford used as cover was that of South Carolina’s Matt Lisle, then the Gamecocks’ hitting coach, and Ford employed the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
“During the texting conversation, (Ford) requested the conversation stay private and put pressure on the minor by telling her he would go to the next girl on the list if she told anyone about their conversations.”
The other FBI offices invited FBI Miami to the investigation as “one of the few FBI offices that conduct online undercover operations.” An undercover agent essayed the role of a high school softball coach who was a friend of a coach contacted earlier by Ford. As they kicked around which players could do what, Ford told the undercover agent to pass his number along to a 15-year-old player.
Two days later, April 22, an undercover agent texted Ford, “Hi Coach. My name is Brooke Bradley.” “Brooke” went on to list what would be on the back of a “Brooke Bradley” softball card: sophomore, pitcher and middle infielder, but versatile enough to play anywhere.
Ford offered “Brooke” a scholarship if she came to the University of South Carolina as well as other help, such as a car when she turned 16.
In the midst of all this, Ford “began asking the juvenile questions about her clothing and bra size and then indicated he wanted her to wear a two-piece swimsuit when they were together.
“(Ford) told the juvenile she was making him excited and asked, “What do you think is excited on me?”
Undercover: “Like ur excited like guy excited.”
Ford: “And body parts excited! I hope you like that.”
Ford encouraged “Brooke” to talk about her sexual experiences, including “whether or not she had gotten him to achieve orgasm” and “Hope you will make me [achieve an orgasm] as well.”
When the undercover offered photos of “Brooke’s” vagina, Ford put in a request for photos of her breasts, too. “Brooke” asked Ford if he could come up with a gift card or money, Ford said, “Yes, I will, babe!”
A little later, Ford “asked the child to video herself masturbating and then send him the video.” He offered cash and promised to “take care of her.”
When next they texted, around 9:35 p.m. on April 24, Ford told “Brooke” he’d just bought a three-pack of Amazon gift cards and “You owe me my pics and vid!” He sent photos of the gift card codes to “Brooke” the next day, thus providing payment.
Ford was in handcuffs 12 days later. When arrested, he possessed several cellphones used for phoning recruits.