The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating allegations that a former Amateur Athletic Union girls’ basketball coach and basketball trainer from Hartford abused female student basketball players and they are urging any potential victims to come forward.
Danny Lawhorn, 30, of Hartford, was charged Tuesday with child enticement for the alleged sexual abuse of three players.
Lawhorn is accused of attempting to entice players into sexual activity. The allegations include "requests for massages from players before engaging in alleged sexual contact,” Ari Papapdacos, assistant special agent in charge at the FBI in New Haven, said Friday.
According to the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, the federal charges are connected to allegations from three players.
Papapdacos said Friday that they have “quite a few” potential victims and there might be others out there.
Lawhorn was a coach in Bria Holmes' Elite AAU program, an AAU girl’s basketball program founded by the former WNBA player.
He was removed as a coach by Bria Holmes Elite after his arrest in June on state charges. He had coached multiple teams for the program founded by Holmes, a former Connecticut high school star who went on to play at West Virginia and in the WNBA.
Lawhorn is accused of assaulting a team member who was staying at his home in June after asking her for a massage, according to court documents that were unsealed Tuesday.
Two former players from the program later came forward to say they had been abused by Lawhorn in 2017 and 2019, federal prosecutors said. Both girls, who were under the age of 18 at the time, said Lawhorn also asked for a massage before he sexually assaulted them, according to court documents.
According to court documents, Lawhorn told one of the teens, "you've been playing for free," "you don't have money for tournaments," and "it's time to pay your dues."
Messages seeking comment Tuesday from Lawhorn’s attorney, Jon Schoenhorn, were not immediately returned, the Associated Press reports. Schoenhorn told The Hartford Courant that his client denies the allegations and intends to plead not guilty.
The Associated Press left a message Tuesday seeking comment from Holmes and the program.
The New Haven Field Division of the FBI is asking for help from the public to find possible victims and witnesses.
During a news conference on Friday morning, Papapdacos said the FBI is mandated to seek out “any and all potential victims” and they are asking for the public’s help “in making sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The FBI said it is working to makes sure that there aren’t other potential victims that authorities do not know about, whether in Connecticut or out of state.
Papapdacos did not have a number of potential victims, but said the allegations go back years and he added that some of the students and basketball players at the time were from out of the state and out of the country.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we get the message out to any potential victims out there,” Papapdacos said.
To get the message out, the FBI is using social media and Legal Attaché offices or overseas offices to take information from potential victims overseas.
“I would ask that they please come forward to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Papapdacos said.
When the federal charges were filed, Lawhorn was already in custody on state charges of second-degree sexual assault and was charged federally with distributing narcotics.
Prosecutors said the drug charges stem from an arrest on Oct. 5 by Hartford police, during which Lawhorn possessed about 300 wax sleeves believed to contain fentanyl, according to the federal complaint.
Anyone with information about the ongoing investigation of Lawhorn is asked to call the FBI information line (203) 503-5593 or visit www.fbi.gov/DannyLawhorn. They said information will be held in the strictest of confidence.
The FBI asks people who were or know anyone who might have been a victim to fill out a short form online here. They ask anyone who knows someone who was possibly a victim to encourage them to complete the form themselves.
Lawhorn is due back in court for a hearing today.