Ex-NBA player Tate George has been sentenced to nine years in prison and ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution for operating ] a real estate Ponzi scheme that cheated other current and former NBA players.
George is a former UConn basketball standout and played in the NBA for the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. He was convicted on four counts of wire fraud in connection with real estate projects operated by his real estate development firm, The George Group. Federal prosecutors said that George persuaded other players to invest in real estate deals by misrepresenting his company’s assets and projects. He then used the investment funds for personal expenses and to pay off earlier investors.
Federal prosecutors said that 10 investors lost more than $2.5 million. Those investors included current NBA player Charlie Villanueva, former player Brevin Knight and “The Apprentice” winner Randal Pinkett.
George, who called federal prosecutors “thugs with a badge,” maintained during the sentencing hearing in late December that he was running a legitimate business and that investors may yet see profits because several of his real estate projects are still in progress. He said that he still plans to pay back investors, several of who testified against him at trial.
Prosecutors said that George used investors’ money for personal expenses, including spending almost $250,000 on family members, girlfriends and himself. They said he spent more than $60,000 on renovations to his New Jersey home, $3,000 for a birthday party for his daughter, and even paid the IRS back taxes of $19,000.
To make the real estate investments more attractive to investors, prosecutors said that George told investors he had a personal net worth of $12 million and that The George Group had a real estate portfolio of more than $500 million, neither of which was true.
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