by Brian Mahany
It’s no secret that our headquarters office is less than a half mile from the Bradley Center, home of the Milwaukee Bucks. Although not a basketball fan, its hard to miss when a former Bucks player is indicted for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme. Prosecutors in Newark, New Jersey unsealed a four count wire fraud indictment today against Tate George.
George, who played for both the New Jersey Nets and the Bucks, is charged with defrauding investors out of $2 million. His victims? The U.S. Attorney says other professional athletes.
According to the indictment, George told investors he had a portfolio worth $500 million. At least some investors were told their money was going to real estate ventures and would be kept safe in an attorney trust account. If you think you know where the story is heading, you are right.
Much of the money reportedly went to his own personal bank account. In typical Ponzi scheme fashion, some of the money went to pay off old investors. Prosecutors say the company had no income producing projects. According to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, George used some of the money for clothes, restaurants and home improvements.
George is not the first sports star accused of theft nor are professional basketball players (or other athletes) immune from finding themselves as victims. What makes this case a little unusual is that George targeted his own – other athletes.
This type of fraud is known as an affinity fraud. That term is used to describe people who prey on members of particular group based on some identifiable characteristic such as religion, ethnicity or profession. Often the scam artists are members of the same group or at least pretend to be. Because they share an apparent affinity, the trust factor is usually much higher. Victims frequently let down their guard.
In some affinity frauds based on religion or ethnic groups, it becomes very hard for law enforcement to penetrate the group and detect the fraud before too many people are hurt. Witness the $33 million fraud last year caused by an Amish man who prayed on others in his same group.
If convicted Tate George is facing 20 years on each count. His actual sentence based on sentencing guidelines is likely to be much less.
If you are the victim of an affinity fraud or Ponzi scheme, its important to act quickly. Very often only the first to act receive any recovery from the fraudster. Finding a good fraud attorney is also important. Often a recovery can be made from a third party – examples include banks, insurance companies, accountants and stockbrokers.
The fraud recovery lawyers at Mahany & Ertl have helped clients recover millions of dollars. If you are the victim of fraud, give us a call. There is no obligation and the call is kept in complete confidence.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. We proudly give victims a voice. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine & Minneapolis, Minnesota. Services available in many jurisdictions.