16-Year-Old Basketball Star is Really 22-Year-Old Illegal Immigrant


There are no details that could emerge here that would make this story any stranger.

Jerry Joseph was thought to be a 16-year-old high school basketball star in Odessa, Texas. At 6-5, he’s one of the few young standouts currently on the Permian High School men’s basketball roster with a promising future ahead of him.

Only problem: He's really 22 years-old.

U.S. Immigration officials believed Joseph was born Guerdwich Montimere, a Haitian citizen who was in the country illegally.

Cedric Smith and Louis Vives, coaches for the South Florida Elite AAU team, initially saw Joseph last month at a tournament and became convinced they had seen him before.

"I'm 100 percent sure. I would bet my paycheck," Smith told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"We saw him. We've known Guerdwich since he was in seventh or eighth grade. The mannerisms were him. It doesn't make sense. They have to do more investigations for me," Smith told the newspaper

Montimere was a star basketball player at Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High School who graduated in 2007.

Joseph denied the allegations and had this to say in an interview with USA Today:

"It was shocking, and the question at hand was just why...When I approached him, I just wanted to know what was going on. The surprised look on his face gave it away that it was him. ... Once he saw a Florida team and players and coaches who knew him, the look on his face was like, 'Wow, what am I into now?' "

Yesterday, Joseph came out and admitted to the ruse.

Joseph was allowed to stay enrolled at his current high school and play basketball. His coach, Danny Wright, was officially named his legal guardian until his status could be determined. Joseph had been staying with Wright’s family since the end of the last school year.

Leticia Zamarripa, an ICE spokeswoman, told the USA Today that investigators used an FBI fingerprint database and determined that Joseph wasn’t Montimere through careful analysis.

Still, doubters remained.

The Odessa American reported recently that Joseph was originally enrolled in his current high school by Jabari Caldwell. Caldwell was a teammate of Montimere’s at Dillard.

Initial reports had Caldwell listed as Joseph’s half brother, however, Wright's wife later came out and said that Joseph had told her that he in fact wasn’t related to Caldwell.

Caldwell told The Odessa American that he helped Joseph enroll in Permian as a favor to a friend he used to play with in high school. Joseph, whose Haitian birth certificate has him being born on Jan 1, 1994, was homeless in Fort Myers, Fla after escaping a hurricane in Haiti in 2008.

"He asked me if it was possible for me to help him enroll in school," Caldwell told the Odessa American. "I met him in Odessa. He came out here on a Greyhound."

Joseph has declined to comment any further on the situation beyond his admission of guilty yesterday.


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