An even bigger surprise, however, came on Monday, when C. Tate George, former NBA basketball player and the CEO of purported real estate development firm The George Group, was convicted in connection with his role in orchestrating a $2 million investment fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
The jury deliberated four hours before convicting George, 45, of Newark, of four counts of wire fraud after a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper. George was immediately remanded into federal custody to await sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2014.
According to documents filed in this case and evidence presented at trial:
George, a former player for the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball teams, held himself out as the CEO of The George Group and claimed to have more than $500 million in assets under management. He pitched prospective investors, including several former professional athletes, to invest with the firm and told them their money would be used to fund The George Group’s purchase and development of real estate development projects, including projects in Connecticut and New Jersey. George represented to some prospective investors that their funds would be held in an attorney trust account and personally guaranteed the return of their investments, with interest.
Based on George’s representations, investors invested more than $2 million in The George Group between 2005 and 2011, which he deposited in both the firm’s and his personal bank account. 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, as well as paying for his daughter’s Sweet 16, extensive renovations on his New Jersey home (that has since been foreclosed), the mortgage on a New Jersey home, the mortgage on a Florida home, taxes to the IRS, and traffic tickets. The defendant gave money to family members and friends. He also spent $2,905 for a reality video about himself (a “sizzle reel” for “The Tate Show,” is available on YouTube). The George Group had virtually no income-generating operations.
Each of the wire fraud counts on which he was convicted is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; postal inspectors of the USPIS, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates; and criminal investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with the investigation leading to Monday's conviction.