Is Thom Brigl a criminal? That is the question being asked today in regards to the numerous extra fees and costs that he has charged the players of the Bismarck Bobcats.
The North American Hockey League has refused to address allegations that Brigl has illegally forced his team's players into paying for a fitness program, sticks, and incidental expenses that are supposed to be covered by the team.
But is it a crime? Let's take a look.
Common law fraud has nine elements:
- a representation of an existing fact;
All USA Hockey Tier II junior teams are required to provide the off-ice training facility
- its materiality;
Players strive to play at the Tier II level for the completion and team amenities.
- its falsity;
Team represents itself as an NAHL member in good standing
- the speaker's knowledge of its falsity;
As a past member of the NAHL's Executive Board, Brigl knows the standards for the level of play.
- the speaker's intent that it shall be acted upon by the plaintiff;
Brigl knows that players will agree to commit to his team based on the perceived level of play.
- plaintiff's ignorance of its falsity;
The players are often not aware that the additional fees are a violation of Tier II standards
- plaintiff's reliance on the truth of the representation;
As a team in good standing with the NAHL, players assume that Brigl is operating within the rules.
- plaintiff's right to rely upon it; and
The team does not disclose the extra fees and costs until the player is on the roster.
- consequent damages suffered by plaintiff.
Each of the players, 25 or more per year, over the last estimated last five years, have paid $400 or more in excessive fees... a total of well over $50,000.
So, is it a crime? By definition it certainly is.
We have to also look at the intimidation part of the issue. Players that ask questions have been told that they do not have a choice but to pay the fee if they wish to be a part of the team. Other players have been singled out by team staff, been left off the game day roster, and have faced other punishments for talking about the problem.
Brigl has conned players into believing that the fees were above and beyond what was required to be provided by the team. He failed to disclose the fees to players and their parents until they were in Bismarck and left with limited options.
The $400 fee may not appear to be a big deal or a lot of money but add it together with the rest of the players on the team and for a minimum of five years this has been going on. Brigl is not a Bernie Madoff but I feel he is a criminal none the less. He took money from unsuspecting players that he was not entitled to receive and punished those that questioned the fee and additional expenses.
Law enforcement officials in North Dakota have expressed interest in the situation and are asking that effected players (or parents) contact them to begin the process of a complaint. Names will remain anonymous to protect players from additional repercussions from the team or league. If you are one of these players or parents, I encourage you to do your part to stop this abuse by contacting Bismarck Police Department Investigator Chad Seidel at 701-223-1212.