Sep 19, 2013
06:14 PMThe Connecticut Story
FBI Agent Details Former UConn Star Tate George’s Alleged Ponzi Scheme
New Haven Register file photo
Tate George drives during the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game at the Mohegan Sun on 8/12/2006.Photo by Arnold Gold
TRENTON, N.J.--An FBI agent detailed today how big bucks from prominent backers went out to his ex-wife and new girlfriend hours after the money landed in an account former basketball great Tate George was supposed to be using in a real estate venture.
Special Agent Abigail Weidner testified in federal court about the audit of George’s finances she conducted, which showed nearly every cent he took in was spent on personal needs and so that he often was in the red by the time new money came in.
In checks and documents Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Shumofsky put up on a projection screen for judge and jury, Weidner pointed to where money from basketball pro Charlie Villanueva paid the $8,721 back tuition for George’s daughter’s Catholic high school in Connecticut.
According to the audit, Detroit Piston Villanueva’s money was used to pay George’s former wife Desiree $11,000 in September of 2010. It also showed $5,779 to buy his older daughter a car and $2,718 to throw a party for his younger girl.
Weidner pointed out that $18,800 of Charlie V’s investment of $250,000 paid off a George tax debt to the IRS, as well as $30,000 for his brother and employee Eric George. George also paid himself $14,800 as head of “The George Group, LLC.’’
As soon as $100,000 came in from Trenton’s own Rhodes Scholar Randal Pinkett, the audit showed, George sent his ex $4,000, paid more than $2,000 for traffic tickets in New York City, mailed $2,000 to a lady friend in Florida who later split with him, and paid his electric and cable bill.
In August 2007, the agent determined, the account went $47,000 in the hole because of a big check sent to a separate George company named for one of his daughters. But the next day, in came $46,000 from an East Orange planner and law student he allegedly had roped in, Naiima Fauntleroy.
“The funds were already spent. Some of the money was spent before it came into the account,’’ Weidner testified before U.S. District Court Judge Mary L. Cooper and a jury of seven men and seven women.
The agent’s presentation also brought out that other investors, including retired pro basketballer Brevin Knight, financed George payments to other, earlier investors.
George is on trial for wire fraud. Prosecutors allege he ran a $2-million real estate scam and Ponzi scheme between 2006 and 2011 that centered around George projects in Essex County and Connecticut that never got off the ground, burning investors who were guaranteed profits of up to 25 percent in as little as eight months.
The trial, which so far has seen 16 witnesses, goes into its second week on Monday and is expected to take another day or two.