CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A South Charleston detective says it's not a matter of if, but when criminal charges are filed against Daniel Hicks, who allegedly brought more than 20 athletes to the area under the mistaken impression they'd be attending a prep school.
"At this point, the investigation is still ongoing," said Detective Andrew Gordon of the South Charleston Police Department. "We've conducted a dozen interviews and we probably have a dozen more."
Meanwhile, West Virginia State University head football coach Earl Monroe said he was forced to try to clean up problems created after Hicks' West Virginia Prep Academy apparently failed to deliver on promises to the young athletes.
"On Aug. 1, kids were on our campus who believed they were coming to start school and play basketball and football," Monroe said. "One kid's grandfather informed me that he had brought his grandson here a month prior and was shown our campus and dorms and was told this is where he was going to live."
West Virginia law appears to allow literally anyone to organize a prep school with minimal oversight or regulation by state authorities -- just as Hicks allegedly did in South Charleston, where about 20 young men were found crowded into a small apartment Sept. 2. Authorities said Hicks was nowhere to be found, even though "school" was ready to start.
State Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple said recently that improving lax private and parochial school regulations, governing what are classified as "exemption k" schools, should be a legislative priority.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said since the incident in South Charleston, the department has "fine-tuned" the letter it sends to those intending to operate such schools to emphasize they are not being endorsed by the state.
Hicks was arrested Sept. 8 for violating the terms of his parole after serving time in jail for a January 2010 drug conviction in Putnam County, according to the state Division of Corrections website. He remains in jail.
Detective Gordon said he hasn't been able to find any legal problems with Hicks opening the school, but said the circumstances should be a reason for the state to consider changing the policy.
"After talking with a lot of the victims and their families, I know if they would have known about Hicks' criminal record there is no way they would have let their children be involved," he said. "When the general public seems to think they wouldn't let their kids be around someone who has a history like that then that should be considered when issuing licenses and certificates."
Chiteca Taylor, of Indianapolis, had high expectations when her son left home to travel to South Charleston at the end of August expecting to begin school and play basketball. If she had known about Hicks' criminal history, she said, she wouldn't have let her son plan to attend.
"I exhausted my whole savings and checking accounts to get him there and now I don't have a dime," she said. "I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy ... it was really a learning experience."
Hicks has said he made a mistake by allowing some of the young men and their parents to delay payments for tuition and fees, which apparently included payment for food and lodging.