Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trinity Christian coach out on bail, expected on sideline Saturday

The Trinity Christian School coach accused of embezzling nearly $400,000 is out on bail and expected to be on the sideline Saturday night when his team opens play in the state basketball playoffs.

Heath Curtis Vandevender, 48, of the 900 block of Westland Ridge Road in Fayetteville, was arrested Monday and appeared before a Wake County District Court judge Tuesday. He was represented by lawyers Mike Williford of Fayetteville and Trey Fitzhugh of Raleigh.

Later Tuesday, Vandevender was out on $50,000 bail. The bail amount was initially incorrectly reported by the Wake County Clerk of Court as $100,000, but his lawyer confirmed Thursday that the bail was $50,000.

Vandevender is accused of taking $388,422 from employee withholding money that was to go to the N.C. Department of Revenue. Vandevender's next court appearance is March 7.

Vandevender, vice president of Truth Outreach Center Inc., is accused of taking the money between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2015, a Department of Revenue spokesman said. Trinity Christian School and Trinity Community Services are under the center's umbrella.

The school is an independent, nonprofit, private day school that offers classes in grades K-12.

Vandevender is the school's athletics director and coaches the boys' basketball team. Trinity Christian begins its postseason in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A playoffs with a home game Saturday.

Vandevender, son of Trinity Christian Church founder Rev. Dennis Vandevender, and all school athletics and administration officials have declined comment on the case. Vandevender did send a text message late Tuesday to the Observer's sports editor that said, "All I can say is I'm teaching and coaching starting tomorrow."

Trinity Christian School, at 3727 Rosehill Road, has turned out several college basketball players, many considered high-profile recruits. The latest in that line was Dennis Smith Jr., a freshman at N.C. State who is among the front-runners for the ACC's top rookie award that will be handed out next month and a possible NBA lottery pick this spring.

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