A former coach at the now-closed Broward Christian School has been arrested on sex trafficking charges, with police finding more than 300 index cards on him listing the physical characteristics and phone numbers of different women.
James Sylvester Ross, 63, of West Park, was arrested after a sting by Fort Lauderdale police in which two undercover officers posed as underage girls and a third officer pretended to be their potential customer.
Ross had been a winning basketball coach at the school, located in Plantation, taking the team to the state finals. He worked there from 1970 to 2000 or 2001, depending on the source, finally serving as athletics director. He told the Sun-Sentinel at the time of his departure that he had been fired, but the school countered he quit because he didn't want to teach, in addition to running the athletics program.
The connection of his index cards to his work at Broward Christian School is under investigation, Detective DeAnna Greenlaw said. Detectives are contacting women on the cards and have found some of them had been at the school, she said.
The investigation began when the Fort Lauderdale Police Department Human Trafficking Unit received a tip that he was involved in "suspicious activity with juveniles," Greenlaw said. The unit sent an undercover officer posing as a 16-year-old girl, who engaged in sexually explicit conversations and texts with him, according to the complaint affidavit. She provided photos that were supposed to depict herself and a 15-year-old girl.
He told them not to use his first or last names, but just to call him "Coach," Greenlaw said.
Ross told one undercover officer that he could connect her with "high-end clients that would pay her thousands of dollars to go out with them," according to the affidavit. When another detective posing as a john attempted to meet with them through Ross, the amount agreed upon was considerably lower: $200.
Ross arranged for all four to meet at the Dunkin' Donuts on Davie Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, where he told the undercover officers to "have fun and go handle your business," according to the affidavit. He was arrested on the spot.
When they searched him, police found more than 300 index cards "each listing a different female's first name, descriptive characteristics of the female, a contact telephone number and the individual's hobbies or interests," a news release said.
Ray Nichols, founder and president of Broward Christian, which closed last year, said he remembered Ross as a man dedicated to producing a winning basketball team and never saw any evidence he was doing anything wrong.
"He was a very successful coach," he said. "We went down to the last game of the playoffs in our division twice. He had athletes go to the pros and to college. He was very competitive."
Of the charges, Nichols said, "I'm a pastor. It is somewhat of a surprise but I've seen so many crazy things happen with pastors and religious people."
Ralph Livingston, who had been basketball coach at rival Upperroom Christian, said, "All I know is he was enthusiastic about basketball and working with the boys' basketball team. He was a great coach. I never suspected any foul play."
Ross has been charged with one count each of procuring a minor for prostitution and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. He is being held at the Paul Rein Detention Facility in Pompano Beach on $8,500 bond.
Ross' public defender, Don Cannarozzi, declined comment, saying he had just received the case file.
Detectives are attempting to contact the women on the cards to find additional victims. Anyone with any information is asked to call Detective John Graul at 954-828-6692.