Former NBA player’s fraud sentencing delayed
TRENTON (AP) — A sentencing for a former NBA player convicted of ripping off investors in a Ponzi scheme was postponed Wednesday as attorneys for both sides battled over how much money his victims lost.
Tate George was to have been sentenced in federal court in Trenton, but after a status conference between attorneys and U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper, it was decided to push the sentencing back to August 19-20 to allow more time to decide the monetary issue.
George, a former UConn star who later played for the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, is best remembered for a buzzer-beating shot in the NCAA tournament for the Huskies in 1990 against Clemson.
George did not attend Wednesday's hearing. He has been held in jail in New Jersey since his conviction last fall on four wire fraud counts.
The U.S. attorney's office claimed George operated a classic Ponzi scheme by convincing investors — 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 he raised to pay off earlier investors and to pay for personal expenses.
Wire fraud carries a maximum 20-year sentence, though defendants are rarely sentenced to the maximum term. Because George had no criminal history before his arrest in this case, his sentence under federal guidelines will depend largely on the amount of monetary loss to his victims, George's attorney, David Schafer, said Wednesday.
That figure has been estimated previously at about $2 million, but Schafer said the government is claiming a higher figure based on additional victims than the seven who testified at trial. He said he is seeking a sentence of between three and four years, while the government is pushing for about nine years.
"Mr. George had a consulting and development business over many years," Schafer said. "The government is basically going back and seeing who is claiming to be a victim."
Among the witnesses testifying for the prosecution at George's trial were Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva and "The Apprentice" winner Randal Pinkett.
George's victims will have the opportunity to testify at his sentencing. Schafer said he expects George to speak on his own behalf, as well.
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