CHICAGO (CBS) — This is a disturbing tale about broken trust.
Three men who never knew each other as teens are suddenly connected by the same claims of abuse. They each say the youth hockey coach they loved and trusted groomed them for sexual abuse.
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They told their stories for the first time on camera to CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini in hopes of helping others.
“I remember being so scared and I wanted out,” said Mike Sacks, who described how the abuse happened including having a pillowcase put over his head. “Your feet were like tied to the bed, and then your arms were up behind your head.”
Another player, Kelly Gee, describes how he was bound.
“The leather belt on the ankles and stuff like that got tighter and tighter,” Gee said.
Chris Jensen, a former hockey player, explains further – “and then he takes me up and he blindfolds me.”
On the ice as teens, they had it all. In the 1980s and 1990s, they were some of the most talented hockey players in Illinois.
Sacks was a Mount Carmel High School standout, and was even offered a full ride to one of the elite hockey programs in the country at the University of Minnesota. It was everything he wanted. This, he thought, could potentially get him to the National Hockey League and a professional career.
“And then it was one day, it was all just gone,” said Sacks.
Sacks, Jensen, and Gee played on different teams, and did not know each other. But they say they all shared the same secret.
Off the ice, they say their hockey coach Tom “Chico” Adrahtas – groomed them to sexually abuse them.
Adrahtas last coached at Robert Morris University. He resigned in 2018 after abuse allegations came out – stemming mainly from boys he coached decades earlier at youth programs throughout Illinois.
Now, when you hear the coach’s name, Jensen said he feels “a mix of feelings – sad, angry, mostly sad.”
The three men said Adrahtas followed the same playbook with each of them. They said the coach invited players to his house in Lisle to talk about their future, and eventually, he would show them pornography, and take them to see prostitutes and strippers.
“And then from there, he takes you to downtown Chicago – drive around and show you all the hookers and talk about sex,” Sacks said. “He starts desensitizing you to all of this stuff.”
Sacks was young when he said this happened to him.
“I’m a minor – I’m 16 years old,” said Sacks.
Next came the story of a mystery woman the coach called Sheila.
“His M.O. was he had this woman and her name was Sheila,” said Sacks.
The other men also were told the same.
“Yes, he named her Sheila. That was the name he used,” Jensen said.
“Yeah, he did,” said Gee about Adrahtas introducing him to the concept of Sheila.
The coach also had rules. The teens were told not to touch Sheila or see her face.
“‘Hey she really likes to please men, but only under these conditions,’” Jensen said Adrahtas told them.
Each teen was blindfolded and left in pitch-black rooms.
But over time, the Sheila story did not add up. The men believe Sheila was actually coach Adrahtas.
“I felt like it was a man, disguising their voice as a woman’s,” said Mike Sacks.
And they say the abuse happened often. Gee said a dozen times. Sacks said 20 to 30 times. Both think the coach eventually recruited others to play the role of Sheila.
“You could tell if somebody’s hand is different or something. It was, I believe, yes, we were definitely being prostituted out,” said Sacks.
This brings us back to the University of Minnesota. Adrahtas got a job coaching hockey there in 1984 and 1985, until players there reported him to the university for running the same Sheila ruse.
“That was the beginning of the cover-up,” said Sacks.
News stories back then say Adrahtas resigned for personal reasons and there was no mention of sexual abuse.
“Absolutely, they buried it,” Sacks said. They buried it.”
Adrahtas went back to Illinois and coaching teens. He was hired by Ira Greenberg.
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“I knew of Chico. I knew Chico to a degree. But I didn’t know enough about him,” said Greenberg who was a businessman whose kids loved the sport, so he founded the Chicago Young Americans teenage hockey team in 1988.
He hired Adrahtas because a trusted person highly recommended him. Greenberg did try to find out why the coach left such a prominent team.
“I called the University of Minnesota, and we couldn’t get any information,” said Greenberg.
Soon after hiring Adrahtas, Greenberg fired him. He had learned a player was sleeping at the coach’s Lisle home. Greenberg said he reported Adrahtas to the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois (AHAI).
That was in 1989, yet Adrahtas kept coaching youth hockey in Illinois. Twenty-one years later, Jensen came forward.
“I wish I would have done something sooner,” said Jensen. “I wish I’d have found my courage sooner.”
Jensen was the first player to break his silence. He sent a letter to AHAI in 2010, about sex abuse he says he endured as a teen at the coach’s home years earlier as a teen. A source with access to AHAI’s investigation tells CBS 2 Investigators the organization’s lawyer warned what would happen if Jensen’s allegations ever got out – warning about a feeding frenzy.
“I was not aware that,” said Jensen.
The CBS 2 Investigators learned from the same source that AHAI hired an expert in dealing with sex abuse cases in the Catholic Church.
Jensen says AHAI told him a member of the FBI was put on his case. Finally, the coach was going to face a real investigation, thought Jensen.
Jensen was later to be disappointed.
“It wasn’t an FBI investigation,” Jensen said. “It was really him doing it on behalf of AHAI as a parent of an athlete who happened to work for the FBI. That’s what was shared with me.”
Sources reveal AHAI was instructed by its lawyers to contact all the places Adrahtas coached, especially in Illinois. But Greenberg said to this day, he has never been contacted by AHAI.
“They really did nothing – and they knew of all this stuff,” said Greenberg.
The former players say the red flags about Adrahtas did not seem to matter because of all the fame he brought to Illinois hockey – winning several national championships.
“Amazing coach, absolute weirdo,” said Gee. “You know people would always say, ‘He’s a creep, but he’s a great coach’.”
When asked what he wants for Adrahtas, Chris Jensen said: “Nothing. I will let God sort that out.”
Sacks still struggles with what this did to his life. He says when Adrahtas left the University of Minnesota, he lost his scholarship. He was out of college, hockey and struggling to survive.
“I mean, it was dark; it was a dark time,” said Sacks. “I mean you don’t care whether you live or die when you’re living with this stuff. You try to make it through the day.”
Sacks and Gee have started a foundation to help others suffering similar abuse.
Adrahtas refused an on-camera interview, but said he never had non-consensual sex with anyone.
USA Hockey reported Adrahtas to the U.S. Center for SafeSport which, last June, banned him from coaching:
“There have been two investigations related to the Tom Adrahtas abuse allegations conducted by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, and the investigations and results are described below. As I believe you are aware, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and resolve any allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse within USA Hockey programs. USA Hockey is not permitted to conduct any independent investigations of these matters.
“On September 12, 2018, USA Hockey received a report (forwarded to USA Hockey by the ACHA – American Collegiate Hockey Association) from a former player detailing sexual abuse by Adrahtas during the 1983-85 time period. Our staff immediately reported the matter to the Center for SafeSport and acknowledged receipt of the report to the former player that submitted the report. The next day, the Center for SafeSport issued a temporary suspension of Adrahtas, and USA Hockey immediately notified the ACHA and Robert Morris University of the suspension. Adrahtas remained under suspension and was ineligible to participate in any program sanctioned by USA Hockey (as well as all sports governed by the USOPC) throughout the investigation. On June 1, 2020, the Center issued its decision declaring that Adrahtas was permanently ineligible ‘from participating, in any capacity, in any event, program, activity, or competition authorized by, organized by, or under the auspices of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the National Governing Bodies recognized by the USOPC, a Local Affiliated Organization as defined by the Code, or any High Performance Management Organization (HPMO), or at a facility under the jurisdiction of the same.’
“In May 2020, an article alleged that other persons within USA Hockey’s affiliate for Illinois (AHAI) were aware of Adrahtas’ abuse in the 1980s and failed to report it, and that a player had submitted a written report of the abuse to AHAI in 2010. The article alleged that Jim Smith, former president of AHAI and at the time secretary of USA Hockey, was one of the individuals aware of the Adrahtas allegations in the 1980s and that he was made aware of the 2010 report. USA Hockey reported those allegations to the Center for SafeSport for investigation. Following its investigation, on April 8, 2021, the Center for SafeSport issued Administrative Closures related to Jim Smith and the other former or current AHAI representatives that were alleged to have failed to report Adrahtas’ abuse. The notice closing the matter contained no negative findings or conclusions related to Jim Smith or any of the AHAI representatives alleged to have knowledge and that no action would be taken.”
AHAI said they called prosecutors, but were told too much time passed.
The University of Minnesota admits failing to investigate sexual abuse claims:
“The University of Minnesota expects its coaches, administrators, faculty, and staff to report any allegations of misconduct so the University can fully and confidentially investigate them. We also expect our leaders at all levels to immediately and fully address findings of wrongdoing. These steps are vital to building a culture that prevents sexual misconduct and responds seriously when concerns are raised. Every member of the University community shares a responsibility to each other: to help provide safe and respectful learning and work places so we can all reach our full potential. With this in mind, the findings outlined in this investigation, even after 35 years, are disturbing.
“This investigation was an important step, even if conducted decades after alleged activity occurred. It is important that the University examine the past: Did the University confront and stop improper conduct? Did the University support the prompt and full reporting of misconduct? Did the University facilitate the many steps needed to address the human consequences of behavior that often leaves lasting wounds?
“The University has taken significant steps in the years since the events described here to ensure any allegations of misconduct are promptly reported and thoroughly investigated. University policies are strong and clearly prohibit sexual misconduct; President Gabel continues an institution-wide commitment to the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct, which includes training for University employees and students; mandatory reporting obligations for faculty and staff are clearly stated; and anonymous reporting options exist to create and maintain a culture of safety and respect.
“We greatly respect and appreciate those who participated in this investigation. Telling one’s story—particularly so long after events allegedly occurred—can be painful and disruptive. Those individuals who came forward should be commended for their strength and willingness to help us pursue the truth.
“Finally, the University has resources available to anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct. We hope all members of our University community will turn to the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office and the Aurora Center for confidential support.”
Roosevelt University, with which Robert Morris University has since merged, issued this statement:
“Roosevelt University values every member of its community. It is important to the University that it works to ensure that all students, faculty and staff feel comfortable coming forward with concerns at any time and will investigate them promptly and thoroughly.
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“We have steps in place to make sure that our students and athletes are safe and feel comfortable voicing any and all concerns. The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff is our utmost priority. Roosevelt has extensive resources and a clear reporting hierarchy to support students dealing with assault, abuse or inappropriate behaviors, For a full listing of student support services and reporting pathways visit roosevelt.edu/title-ix.”