By DAVID PORTER
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday rejected jailed former NBA player Tate George’s appeal of his 2013 fraud conviction, ruling that the government provided ample evidence for a jury to find him guilty of running a real estate Ponzi scheme.
George was convicted last fall on four wire fraud counts during a trial in which current and former athletes testified they lost money investing in projects he touted.
“I find the evidence presented during the government’s case in chief was by all means sufficient,” U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper said.
In his appeal for a new trial, George accused the government of prosecutorial misconduct and claimed his former attorney failed to follow his wishes and introduce key documents or witnesses during the trial. While Cooper denied the misconduct charge, she left the door open for George to appeal after his sentencing on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. George’s current attorney, Andrew McDonald, said he planned to pursue that route.
No sentencing date has been set. George has been jailed since his conviction, and he attended Friday’s hearing shackled and in green prison garb. He didn’t speak to the judge during the proceeding.
McDonald said he hoped Cooper would sentence George to time served. Since George had no previous criminal record, the type of sentence he receives will depend partly on what the loss to victims is determined to be; that issue is in dispute.
The U.S. attorney’s office contended George persuaded victims to invest in real estate opportunities by lying about his company’s assets and projects, then took their money and used it for personal expenses and to pay off earlier investors.
“He made representations to people, took money from them and then used the money in a manner wholly inconsistent with those representations,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Intrater said during Friday’s hearing.
In her ruling, Cooper read from trial testimony that described how former NBA player Brevin Knight lost all of a $300,000 investment with George.
George’s attorneys contend some of the alleged victims still have money invested in some of the projects in question and could still reap returns. They also contend the projects were legitimate and that George didn’t misrepresent himself.
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.