Former NBA player George seeks new fraud trial

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former NBA player convicted of wire fraud in an alleged real estate Ponzi scheme is seeking to have his conviction thrown out and claiming prosecutorial misconduct, among other allegations.

Tate George said in a recent court filing that his conviction last fall should be reversed for several reasons, including that the government used a witness who lied on the stand and that prosecutors never proved that investors suffered losses due to any illegal actions by him. George also claimed his attorney didn't try to present documents and testimony into evidence that could have proved his innocence.

Attorneys were scheduled to make oral arguments on George's motion Tuesday in Trenton, but the hearing was postponed after George switched attorneys.

George is a former University of Connecticut star who played for the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. He's best remembered for a buzzer-beating shot in the NCAA tournament in a 1990 game against Clemson.

The U.S. attorney's office contended George operated a Ponzi scheme by persuading victims, including other pro athletes, to invest in a purported real estate opportunity. Instead of purchasing the real estate he'd touted, prosecutors said, George used the money to pay off earlier investors and to cover personal expenses.

He was convicted on four wire fraud counts last fall. Wire fraud carries a maximum 20-year sentence upon conviction, but defendants rarely receive the maximum. Because George had no previous criminal history, his sentence under federal guidelines would likely depend largely on the total monetary loss to his victims, and that amount has been hotly disputed by the two sides.

In a motion filed last Friday, George, who has been in jail since his conviction, calls the government's case "as porous as Swiss cheese" and claims prosecutors conceded in a phone conference that the real estate projects at issue were legitimate. George said he dealt with investors in good faith and never operated a Ponzi scheme, which he said can be proved by testimony from his corporate attorney, who wasn't called to testify by the attorney who defended George at trial.

Andrew McDonald, an attorney now representing George, said Tuesday "the truth will prevail and everybody that knows Mr. George and believes in him knows that to be true."

The U.S. attorney's office is due to make a response to Friday's motion, but in a response to an earlier motion for acquittal it called the evidence against George "overwhelming."

"The evidence at trial showed that as soon as defendant George received his victims' money — often into bank accounts that were overdrawn — he spent it on himself, his family, and to pay back prior investors, in classic Ponzi scheme style," prosecutors wrote. "The evidence at trial showed that defendant George created and disseminated completely fake documents to his victims and others, in crude attempts to trick them further."