Box given 270-day jail sentence, 36 months probation for theft in youth basketball program

Joel Box.652f8f0c

Joel Box

QUINCY — A former Quincy University and John Wood Community College basketball star received probation and jail time Monday during a sentencing hearing in Adams County Circuit Court.

Joel A. Box, 37, previously had pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge. Judge Robert Adrian sentenced Box to 270 days in jail and 36 months probation. He also must pay $41,612.51 in restitution for accepting payments for services but failing to follow through as the owner of a youth basketball training and select traveling team program.

A negotiated plea entered in March called for Box to receive probation and pay restitution in exchange for a guilty plea to a charge of theft over $10,000. Local law enforcement agencies had received multiple complaints from residents who paid money to Joel Box Evolution Basketball for camps and lessons which never were provided.

J.D. Summers, a patrol officer for the Quincy Police Department, and Scott Saalborn, a deputy with the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, worked on the investigation. Summers testified Monday he found “numerous text messages” on Box’s cellphone with his brother and other people in regard to a horse betting track in Box’s hometown of Rockford. 

“There also were messages (about) him … seeking help in regards to his gambling addiction,” Summers said.

The Better Business Bureau reported in a June 2019 warning that, according to federal court records, Box filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May 2019 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Among the names listed on Box’s nonpriority unsecured claims were two line items for “Evolution Basketball Parents and Participants” and “Evolution Parents” totaling a little more than $75,000.

‘Mr. Box’s gambling addiction … isn’t going to stop because he feels bad’

Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck recommended jail time for Box on top of the probation. She said Box took money from “about 40 or 50” people for his business. She added that some of the children used birthday money or Christmas money to pay for Box’s services.

“There is nothing in the recommendations of probation about any type of treatment, and quite frankly, this is only going to happen again,” Keck said. “Mr. Box’s gambling addiction, like any other addiction, is not going to stop just because he feels bad. Maybe he thinks it will, but it won’t. … I’m concerned by the fact that Mr. Box, even (in his) statement to this court, does not talk about his problems with gambling. That tells me he has not addressed the issue, and it’s going to happen again.

“There needs to be a deterrence for the public to know this is not OK, for all of those families and children who were victimized to know this is not OK.”

Loves Park attorney Richard Haime represented Box for the sentencing. He said Box had no record before he was arrested Aug. 14, 2019, in Rockford after an investigation by both the Quincy Police Department and Adams County Sheriff’s Department. He added that Box has two part-time jobs and is providing financial assistance for some stepchildren. Box is engaged to be married, and his fiancé is due to give birth to their first child in September.

Box also brought $1,000 with him Monday to pay toward his restitution.

“He wants to make his restitution payments and make everybody whole,” Haime said. “He can’t do that in jail.

“He’s willing to do anything that probation seeks. Whatever counseling or … anything they want him to do, he will gladly do it. Jail time would take away any chance of employment, his ability to pay restitution and … support his children and loved ones.”

Adrian didn’t believe Box was capable of repayment

Box, a basketball standout at JWCC from 2003-04 and at QU from 2006-07, made a brief statement. He apologized “deeply from the bottom of my heart.”

“I’ve made a lot of bad decisions that put me into this situation,” he said. “I’m doing things to try to better myself to not put myself in this situation. I’m willing to do whatever I have to do in order to repay these parents and these children who I know work hard for their money. 

“At the beginning of this, it was never my intention at all to seek or defraud anybody. I ran my stuff here for almost four years for well over 100 kids. I know you don’t get to that number without people trusting you some type of way shape or form. … I’m accepting the consequences, and I will do whatever I can to make this right.”

Adrian said he added jail time to Box’s sentence because he didn’t believe he was capable of repayment. Box posted a $10,000 bond when he was arrested. and $9,000 of that went toward restitution. After Monday’s $1,000 payment, Box still owes more than $31,000.

“From what you’ve provided me, I don’t see that you’ve got the wherewithal right now to pay that back,” Adrian said. “You may pay some of that, (but) you’re not going to get that (all) paid off. You didn’t submit any type of a plan that tells me, ‘Judge, here’s how I can pay off this restitution.’ 

“So what we’ve got is a whole bunch of people out there who just threw their money away. They’re going to be disappointed. They’re already disappointed. They’re going to be hurt financially, and they’re going to want to see some justice done, because you basically stole their money.”

Adrian also ordered Box to complete a gambling addiction program.

Box will receive credit for three days already served in the Adams County Jail. He will then serve 90 days, with the rest of his sentence to be stayed. He is eligible to receive day-for-day credit for good behavior, meaning he could be released from the jail after 45 days. 

Box will begin his sentence on Sept. 20, one week after the expected birth of his child.

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