TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former New Jersey Net and UConn basketball star Tate George was convicted Monday of operating a Ponzi scheme that netted him $2 million.
Best known for his buzzer-beating shot against Clemson in the 1990 NCAA Tournament, Tate was found guilty on four counts of federal wire fraud. Each count carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His bail was immediately revoked, and he is scheduled be sentenced Jan. 16.
“The defendant has an incentive to run,” Joseph Shumofsky, the lead federal prosecutor, told the judge. “If your honor lets him walk out of the courthouse today, there is more than a good chance that we will never see him again.”
George carried out a profitable scheme that lined his pockets from 2005 to early 2011, even though his purported real estate development firm, The George Group, had virtually no income-generating operation, prosecutors said.
He used money from new investors to pay previous investors or for home improvements and personal expenses, including his daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday party, according to prosecutors. George also gave money to family members and friends and spent nearly $3,000 to promote a Tate George “reality show” that is still available on YouTube.
A federal jury in Trenton returned the verdict after a three-week trial.
George, a guard, played for the Nets for three seasons, from 1990-93, before spending the 1994-95 season with the Milwaukee Bucks. His best season came in 1991-92, when he averaged 6 points and 2.3 assists per game.
During the trial, prosecutors said George held himself out as the CEO of The George Group and claimed to have more than $500 million in assets under management. He pitched prospective investors, including several former pro athletes, to invest with the firm and told them their money would be used to fund the purchase and development of real estate projects, including some in Connecticut and New Jersey.
George told some prospective investors that their funds would be held in an attorney trust account, prosecutors said, and he personally guaranteed the return of their investments, with interest.
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