Tate George, a former player for the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, was convicted on charges of running a $2 million Ponzi scheme that targeted ex-professional athletes, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Jurors deliberated four hours before convicting George yesterday of four wire-fraud counts in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, Fishman said in a release. George testified in his own defense. Jurors also heard from Charlie Villanueva of the Detroit Pistons, who was a victim.
George, a Newark resident, told prospective investors that their money would fund the George Group’s development of real estate projects in New Jersey and Connecticut, prosecutors charged. George raised more than $2 million for his company, the George Group, after telling investors his real-estate development portfolio was worth $500 million, prosecutors said.
“Instead of using investments to fund real estate development projects as promised, George used the money from new investors to pay existing investors in Ponzi-scheme fashion,” Fishman said in the release.
George, 45, also used the money to pay for a Sweet 16 party for his daughter, renovations on his New Jersey home, mortgages on homes in New Jersey home and Florida, taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service, traffic tickets and a reality video about himself, prosecutors said.
“The George Group had virtually no income-generating operations,” Fishman said in the release.
He was immediately taken into custody until his sentencing on Jan. 16 by U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper, according to Fishman. He faces as long as 20 years in prison on each count. His assistant federal public defender, David Schafer, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the case.
George was arrested in September 2011 on a Federal Bureau of Investigation complaint charging him with one count of wire fraud. His trial started Sept. 9.
George attended the University of Connecticut, where he hit the game-winning shot against Clemson University in the third round of the 1990 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. With one second remaining and Connecticut trailing by one, George caught a full-court pass from teammate Scott Burrell, spun around and hit a 15-foot jump shot as time expired.
He was selected by the Nets with the No. 22 pick in the 1990 NBA draft. The Nets have since moved to Brooklyn, New York. In a four-year career, George averaged 4.2 points and 1.8 assists a game.
The case is U.S. v. George, 12-cr-204, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).