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Rodney Grubbs Pickleball Scam: A Hazard Saved

Rodney Grubbs Pickleball Scam: Oklahoma pickleball referee Ron Ponder has dramatically changed his opinion of Rodney ‘Rocket’ Grubbs in recent years. The transformation is nothing short of astonishing. When the pair first met at a tournament in Italy back in 2018, Ponder found Grubbs to be a “really nice guy” and “very outgoing.” Fast forward to the present day, and Ponder describes his former friend in far less flattering terms: a “psychopath” and an “a**hole.” Unfortunately, Ponder is not alone in his sentiments.

Grubbs, once a highly respected figure in the pickleball community known for his enthusiasm and friendly nature, now faces accusations of involving hundreds of people, including many of his closest friends, in a massive $47.5 million fraud scheme. Hailing from Brookville, Indiana, Grubbs allegedly convinced investors to pour their savings into his pickleball business under false pretenses.

Grubbs was once hailed as the sport’s “ultimate ambassador,” traveling the world to promote Pickleball Rocks, known as “the world’s most recognized pickleball apparel brand.” However, behind the charm and promotional tours, authorities claim he was issuing promissory notes across the country—typically for $25,000 at 12 percent interest over 18 months—that were rarely honored. The fallout has deeply affected the pickleball community, a sport traditionally known for its companionship and laid-back vibe rather than the high-stakes drama more commonly associated with other sports.

As Grubbs’ victims, who once considered him a friend, demand justice, they are left facing the bitter realization that a man who portrayed himself as friendly, unassuming, and deeply religious could execute such an elaborate deception.

The Investment Pitch: Trust and Betrayal

“It is a crazy situation we have found ourselves in,” said Melody Woodsum, a pickleball referee from Cape Coral, Florida, aged 65. Melody, along with her husband Greg, 66 years old, invested around $200,000 in Pickleball Rocks over several years, and they haven’t seen a penny in return. The couple met Grubbs and his wife at a pickleball tournament in Naples, Florida, in 2016. Melody recalls him as a “very friendly person,” and the two couples often dined together at events. The bond between them grew so strong that the Woodsums even stayed at the home of Grubbs’ son, Josh when attending one of his pickleball clinics.

Rodney Grubbs Pickleball Scam

This close relationship set the stage for Grubbs to pitch his business idea to Melody and Greg in October 2017. He proposed that they become one of five or six investors in his pickleball apparel company, swearing them to secrecy to keep his competitors in the dark about his funding sources. The Woodsums, believing in the potential growth of the pickleball industry and tournaments, saw it as a calculated risk worth taking.

“We knew there was a risk in it, but we also knew the pickleball industry was growing and tournaments were expanding,” Melody explains. “We felt it was all within reason.”

They trusted Grubbs implicitly. “They are faithful people,” Melody adds. “They would always pray at the dinner table before the meal. So you have this picture of a man who is very honest. A God-fearing family man and businessman.”

Grubbs, a property investor who retired from AT&T, had a well-rehearsed strategy to attract additional capital. He would assert that an investor was cashing out and needed replacement funding, or that his business was expanding to include equipment like nets, balls, and paddles, positioning Pickleball Rocks to target schools and colleges. This narrative was persuasive enough to attract other friends and investors, including Walt Hooker and Ron Ponder, who invested $25,000 and $65,000 respectively.

Instead of repaying the funds as agreed, Grubbs would offer excuses, often referencing the pandemic and suggesting rolling over the money into the next investment opportunity.

Unraveling the Scheme: From Trust to Suspicion

Pickleball might be expanding, but it remains a relatively small world where players often encounter familiar faces at tournaments across the U.S. Eventually, Grubbs’ secret began to leak. Ponder remembers raising an eyebrow when another player mentioned hoping Grubbs would make a lot of money selling his T-shirts because he had invested. The full extent of the deception came to light at a tournament in Holly Hill, Florida, in December 2022.

Teri Siewert, 67, who invested $25,000 in 2019, started to suspect something was amiss after Grubbs missed yet another payment deadline in September. She began asking other players about him, and the first person she queried burst into tears, revealing that Grubbs had taken her money and wouldn’t give it back. Alarmed, Teri started a Facebook group called “From Pickleball Rocks to Prison Rocks,” and soon, similar stories began to pour in.

Shortly after the group’s founding, Teri received a wire transfer from Grubbs amounting to over $50,000—covering her initial $25,000 investment plus accumulated penalties and interest. The following day, she contacted Matt Foster, an Indianapolis attorney who now represents over 300 clients with claims against Grubbs dating back to the early 2000s.

Court filings reveal that the one-time “pickleball ambassador” owes a staggering $47.5 million to more than 500 creditors across 30 states and several countries, related to both pickleball and real estate investments. No one knows where the money has gone, and Grubbs’ friends maintain that he never lived a lavish lifestyle.

Rodney Grubbs From Pickleball Ambassador to Alleged Scammer

The securities division of Indiana’s Secretary of State issued a cease-and-desist order, prohibiting Grubbs from issuing further notes and alleging that he was breaking state securities laws. He was forced into involuntary bankruptcy earlier this year after a group of creditors confronted him during a court hearing in Indianapolis. Pickleball Rocks has since closed, and Grubbs has vanished from the tournament circuit. In court filings, he claimed assets of just $1.6 million.

Legal and Financial Fallout: Cease-and-Desist Orders and Bankruptcy

Despite the overwhelming evidence and the numerous claims against him, Grubbs has not been charged with a crime, much to his creditors’ frustration. Teri finds it “mind-boggling” that he hasn’t been arrested and Melody believes he “should be in jail.” Grubbs, for his part, insists he never issued a loan he didn’t intend to repay. In a written response filed in the bankruptcy case in January, he claimed the name Pickleball Rocks had been greatly diminished by gossip and coordinated social media attacks by investors. He argued that the business could “continue to grow” with good management.

Rodney Grubbs From Pickleball Ambassador to Alleged Scammer

In text messages to Ron, Grubbs blamed his downfall on the work of Satan. Some creditors, like Teri and Walt, managed to reclaim their investments through sheer persistence. Most, however, including Ron and Melody, have not been as fortunate. Social media commentary has been unsympathetic, suggesting that such wealthy, intelligent people should have known better than to fall for promises of high returns on unsecured investments.

Ron counters that a 12 percent return was not an unreasonable expectation, only a slight increase from the 8 percent his money was earning elsewhere, which made it seem believable. “People say I should have done my due diligence,” he reflects. “But I don’t know how, plus, I didn’t think I needed to—it was Rodney!”

Grubbs knew how to play the game. He enlisted the former president of USA Pickleball as an investor and publicized that he had repaid him to boost his credibility. Melody notes that the perception of a small pool of investors made the scheme seem more realistic. She and others believed his total debt was only a few thousand dollars, easily covered by his assets.

“We felt he had the ability to pay it back, Never in our wildest dreams did we think he owed millions,” said melody.

The betrayal by someone they considered a friend has left a lasting scar. “I believe people are honest, and I trust my friends,” Melody adds. But Ron has concluded that their friendship was never real. It was all an act, a premeditated ploy to target potentially wealthy retirees with money to spare. Grubbs may have devised a clever business scheme, but his “nice guy” persona was the most effective lure.

“You don’t loan money to a Soviet assassin,” Ron says, summing up the profound sense of betrayal felt by many. The tale of Rodney ‘Rocket’ Grubbs serves as a cautionary reminder that appearances can be deceiving, even in the friendly confines of the pickleball court.

News in Brief: Rodney Grubbs Pickleball Scam

Rodney ‘Rocket’ Grubbs, once celebrated as a pickleball ambassador, now faces serious allegations of orchestrating a $47.5 million fraud scheme. Initially known for his charm and enthusiasm, Grubbs convinced hundreds of investors, including friends like Ron Ponder and Melody Woodsum, to invest in his Pickleball Rocks business. However, instead of honoring agreements, he allegedly issued promissory notes he didn’t fulfill, blaming delays on various excuses.

The fallout has shaken the pickleball community, where Grubbs was highly regarded. Victims, once trusting him as a friend, now demand justice as they navigate significant financial losses. In spite of legal actions and a bankruptcy filing, Grubbs has not been criminally charged, leaving many disillusioned by his betrayal and questioning their trust in others.

The case highlights a cautionary tale of how appearances can deceive, even in seemingly tight-knit communities like pickleball.

Also read: Rodney Grubbs Faces Accusations in Pickleball Scandal

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