“All registrants MUST be paid in full at the time of registration!! NO EXCEPTIONS!!,” states a flyer for the Santa Rosa Baseball/Softball League that was distributed to parents interested in their kids joining the City of San Fernando-based sports organization that plays at Las Palmas Park.
But while the league demands payment in full, league president Marcos Martinez may not be following that rule when it comes to purchases for Santa Rosa.
Several trophy stores, from San Fernando to Northridge and North Hollywood claim Martinez, owes them money for custom-made trophies he purchased from them — in some instances several years back — and that he refuses to pay.
It’s not just trophy stores. At a recent San Fernando City Council meeting, resident Diana Oceguera said that despite parents paying fees to the league, the league had not paid the city for use of its facilities.
“As a parent and volunteer of this league it is disheartening to have [to] stand before you and share this information,” said Oceguera, who did not name any specific league official. “We entrusted this person with our children, our private information, and the league applications, our hard earned money, time and dedication.”
Oceguera stated further that these actions are not giving the community and park a good name, and she has tried to resolve the issue discreetly, but decided to come forward after receiving a “very concerned” email to her place of employment.
In a brief exchange with the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, Martinez denied the accusations.
City Recreation and Community Services Director Julian Venegas said he would meet with Martinez this week to “discuss the concerns of the parents” and others have with the league president.
San Fernando Police Chief Tony Vario said the department is monitoring the situation.
“We’ve heard of the accusations but at the moment nobody has made a formal complaint with any type of evidence,” Vairo told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol. “If there is a crime, and it is in our jurisdiction, we will investigate.”
“I should have run the other way”
Three years ago, Martinez went to Northridge-based Gold Crest Engraving. He had been referred there by a friend of the owner, Israel Pena, after Pena had made some trophies for a children’s football team.
Pena’s company does not really do this type of work, because “there’s so much labor,” but said “since he came to me from a customer, and there were kids involved, I did the job.”
“I always ask 50 percent upfront. He gave me 50 percent, and the balance was due on pickup,” Pena said.
The first year, according to Pena, Martinez paid him in full, although slowly.
“I was always lenient with him because it was for kids”, he said.
The second year “I had more issues with him getting paid,” Pena said, adding Martinez still managed to do it.
The third year, “since I wasn’t happy with him, I told him he had to pay [all the] money upfront,” Pena said.
The store owner said Martinez wrote him a check for $5,000 made out to “cash,” telling Pena to hold on to it. Once he finished the trophies, Martinez would pick them up, pay in full what he owed, and pick up his check.
Although Martinez had always paid in cash, Pena decided to accept.
“I should have run the other way,” Pena says now. After that, “he gave me every excuse in the book — ‘my grandmother was sick’, my grandmother died.’” Pena still has that check and provided a copy of it to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol.
He said he has tried every way to contact Martinez since then but gotten no response. Pena has even left angry messages on the Santa Rosa Baseball League Facebook page, where Martinez regularly posts items and responds to questions from parents.
An outstanding debt of $1,400 remains, as well as some trophies Martinez never picked up after stiffing him for the money back in May of 2016, Pena said.
“This man is robbing from people in the name of kids. I don’t know how much lower you can go.”
“This man needs to stop”
Gilbert Echeverria of AG Sports in the City of San Fernando said he had a similar experience.
In May 2017, shortly after the store opened, Echeverria said Martinez came and ordered over 300 trophies for the league, at a cost of $1,208.
“He was supposed to pay that June 10. I even gave him a payment plan,” Echeverria said. “I still delivered it to him and he tells me ‘I forgot my checkbook, after the ceremony just meet me and I’ll take care of it.’”
He claims that Martinez still has not shown up to pay.
“He has not returned any phone calls, emails or text messages,” Echeverria said. “There’s always an excuse. I confronted him and he brushed me off. ‘You have a problem,’ is what he told me.
“I trusted him,” Echeverria said. “He saw a sucker, in bold print, and he got me.”
As a new business trying to build a clientele, the invoice Martinez didn’t pay “set me back that month. It was hard to recover,” Echeverria said. “It left a bad taste in my mouth. Now I don’t commit to any work until payment is made.”
Small Claims Court
While neither Echeverria nor Pena have pursued legal action against Martinez for outstanding debts, Wesley Starnes of the North Hollywood-based Anderson Trophy Company did file a case in small claims court.
Back in 2014, Martinez ordered $9,000 of custom-made trophies from the business.
“He paid for half of it. The balance was due on receipt,” Starnes said. “He sent other folks to pick up the order and he called and said ‘the check is going to be in the mail.’ Not wanting to hurt a relationship with a good customer, I accepted.”
Starnes – who said he’s called numerous times and tried to collect from Martinez in other ways – still has not been paid the outstanding $4,800.
After several months of trying to collect Starnes filed a small claim but said Martinez “wasn’t at the address he had given us and we couldn’t serve him.”
Because of that “the judge couldn’t give us a default verdict.”
Starnes is still bitter about the affair.
“This guy is bad news. He’s probably putting the money in his own pocket,” Starnes said.
March 10 was supposed to be the opening day for this season’s Santa Rosa Baseball League. But the rain canceled the parade and festivities.
Still, several parents showed up to Las Palmas Park, where Martinez was in the snack bar, to pick up uniforms.
Every parent in the league had paid $225 for League and Fundraiser Fee, and/or $175 for T-ball. There are 12 teams in this year’s league composed of boys and girls from age 3 to 12.
The league has been in existence for more than two decades and is well known; several teams have advanced to regional and state titles.
When questioned by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol about the alleged outstanding debts, Martinez’ jovial tone suddenly turned sour and he denied these claims.
“No idea why they’re saying that,” he said. “If there’s a problem, they know how to fix it. They can take it to court.”
“Who’s to say they didn’t mess up on the trophies,” he added, before noting that he wouldn’t comment further.
“I rather leave it at that,” he said.