SBJ/March 6 - 12, 2000/No Topic Name

Black hit with criminal, civil charges

Sports agent William "Tank" Black appeared in shackles in federal court in Gainesville, Fla., last week, where he faced criminal charges of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud that could carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

The charges filed by the U.S. attorney's office are very much the same as the allegations in a civil lawsuit the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Black in Tampa on Feb. 24.

Black defrauded numerous NFL player clients of millions by gaining their trust and control of their bank accounts, according to court documents filed by the SEC.

In one case, according to the documents, Black took $460,000 from Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Jacquez Green's signing bonus and deposited it into a Cayman Islands account that federal authorities allege is a front for a Ponzi scheme, a con in which money from recent investors is used to pay returns to earlier investors.

Green, deposed by SEC attorneys, said that he never gave Black permission to take the funds and that he found out about it only when it showed up on his monthly financial statement.

In another case, according to the documents, Black took thousands from the accounts of at least five NFL players — without their knowledge — to help pay back $780,000 that former NFL player Robert Brooks had invested with Black.

Last month, the SEC obtained a temporary restraining order against Black, which, among other things, freezes his bank accounts and orders him to account for the proceeds of the alleged fraud.

"Mr. Black has stated that the allegations are wrong," said Michael Wolensky, attorney for Black in the SEC matter. Attempts to reach Black's spokesperson and the attorney representing him in the criminal case were unsuccessful.

Wolensky added that the restrictions placed on Black as part of the SEC order would "make if very difficult" for Black to remain in business as an agent. But that may be a moot point, as Black was fighting prosecutors' attempts last week to put him in jail. The U.S. attorney's office had argued that he is a flight risk.

Erich Schwartz, SEC assistant director of enforcement, said that agency was attempting to get the money back to the players. The SEC has charged that players may have invested as much as $14 million in three fraudulent schemes that enriched Black by as much as $5 million.

Although most of the players involved are either current or former NFL players, one, budding superstar Vince Carter, is an NBA player. The SEC alleged that Carter, as well as NFL players Green and Germane Crowell, invested a total of $1.1 million in the Cayman Island scheme.

The SEC also charged that Black fraudulently obtained stock in BAOA, a small public company, and then sold the stock — which he received for free — to his players.

The NFL Players Association, which acted to decertify Black last year, had uncovered the allegations about BAOA, but the Ponzi scheme allegations are new. The SEC and other agencies began investigating Black in response to the publicity surrounding the NFLPA's probe of the agent, said NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen.

Berthelsen said he did not know if any of the players would get their money back. Although some agents handle the finances of their clients, many do not, Berthelsen said.

"We have made it clear to the players and the agents and anyone who will listen that they shouldn't entrust their money to anyone," he said.

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