Tate George Convicted In Federal Fraud Case

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Chris Keating/Hartford Courant

TRENTON – Jurors in U.S. District Court Monday found former University of Connecticut basketball star Tate George guilty of four counts of federal wire fraud.

Before the jury entered, George sat between his two defense attorneys at the defendant’s table. He had his head bowed at times before talking to one of his attorneys shortly after 4 p.m His adviser and mentor, Enrique Riley, sat quietly in the third row of the courtroom.

On the other side of the courtroom sat five members of the FBI team that investigated the case

The verdict came after deliberations of less than a day and after a three-week trial.

George could face a lengthy prison term since each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Before the jury entered, George sat between his two defense attorneys at the defendant’s table. He had his head bowed at times before talking to one of his attorneys shortly after 4 p.m His adviser and mentor, Enrique Riley, sat quietly in the third row of the courtroom.

The investors who lost money and testified at the trial included NBA player and former UConn superstar Charlie Villanueva, former NBA player Brevin Knight of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a municipal judge, and a law school student who had inherited money. Another investor, who won a $145,000 civil court judgment against George, was Rhodes Scholar Randal Pinkett, who won “The Apprentice” television reality show in its fourth season in 2005.

Prosecutors had charged that George had used investors’ money for a wide variety of purposes, including spending nearly $250,000 on family members, two girlfriends, and himself. He also paid $19,000 to pay back federal taxes to the IRS, nearly $3,000 for his daughter’s Sweet Sixteen party, and nearly $3,000 for a promotion for a Tate George reality show that is still available on YouTube.

“The defendant lied and made misrepresentations” about his own assets and those of his real estate company, prosecutor Joseph Shumofsky told the 12-member jury during the closing arguments Monday morning.

Shumofsky said that George lied about his assets when Villanueva was contemplating investing $250,000 in a Bridgeport retail project.

George gave Villanueva a “completely fabricated document” in August 2010 that said he had assets of $12 million, the prosecutor said Monday. That document said that George’s vested NBA pension, after playing four years with the New Jersey Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks, was $1 million. But later testimony showed that George received a lump sum pension in recent months of less than $200,000.

Shumofsky added that the project manager for the Simon Konover company, which was intending to build the Bridgeport project, testified that he never heard anything about Villanueva investing in the project. The retail plaza was never built.

The trial involved 14 prosecution witnesses, 8 defense witnesses, and more than 180 exhibits that included emails, bank records from Simsbury Bank, and financial records. But the prosecutor said the case boiled down to Tate George.

“Who took money from investors? The defendant,” Shumofsky said. “Who spent their money? The defendant.”

Shumofsky looked at the jurors and asked, “Do you believe, for one second, that the investors are ever going to be paid back by the defendant?”

After the prosecution’s initial closing argument of more than two hours on Friday, George’s biggest supporter and defender, Enrique Riley, was not persuaded.

“It’s just allegations,” Riley said outside the courtroom. “That’s all it is.”

Overall, the government says that George swindled investors out of $2 million in a fraudulent scheme before he was arrested two years ago. George has testified that he plans to repay his investors.

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