SBJ/August 27-September 2, 2012/Labor and Agents

Lawsuits stack up against financial adviser Crafton

Seven current or former NFL players and gold-medal-winning soccer player Heather Mitts have filed lawsuits against athlete financial adviser Billy Crafton over the last few months.

Former Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain, current Seattle Seahawks linebacker Matt McCoy and free agent linebacker Freddy Keiaho filed separate lawsuits against Crafton in state court in San Diego County in June, claiming breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, fraud and deceit, among other things. Each is seeking unspecified damages. Blake Harper, attorney for all three players, said collectively they lost in excess of $5 million while Crafton was their financial adviser.

Former Tennessee Titans and New York Jets linebacker Brad Kassell also sued Crafton in June, filing in state court in Travis County, Texas. Kassell alleges breach of contract, common law fraud and violations of the Texas Securities Act, among other things. The lawsuit contends that, on Crafton’s advice, Kassell invested approximately $700,000 in funds but that “virtually nothing remains” of those investments.

Earlier this month, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek; free agent wide receiver Kevin Curtis; St. Louis Rams quarterback A.J. Feeley; and Mitts, who is Feeley’s wife, joined as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Philadelphia against Crafton. Their allegations include violations of U.S. securities laws, legal claims of fraudulent misrepresentation and bad-faith breaches of fiduciary duties. Andrew Smith, attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients’ losses collectively were in excess of $7.6 million.

Crafton, in a telephone interview last week, said of the lawsuits, “Per advice of counsel, I cannot comment on pending litigation.” He declined to comment further.

All of the lawsuits ask for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages to be proven at trial.

While the facts in each case differ, each involves losses the players contend they suffered from investments in Westmoore Management and entities related to Westmoore. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission shut down the Westmoore businesses in June 2011, citing that the entities engaged in a Ponzi-like investment fraud scheme.

In April of this year, the NFL Players Association issued its first “alert” to all NFL player agents about an investigation it was conducting into a financial adviser. That adviser was Crafton. “The NFL Players Association Security Department in cooperation with law enforcement is investigating multiple alleged investment fraud claims” involving NFL players, the April 19 memo to NFL player agents stated.

The NFLPA declined to comment for this story.

Crafton told SportsBusiness Journal in April that he was never named by the SEC in its complaint against Westmoore Management, which is now in a receivership, and that he lost his own money in Westmoore investments. He also said at that time that he represented about 10 NFL players and 15 MLB players for financial work.

The lawsuit filed against Crafton in federal court in Philadelphia states that Crafton represents at least 20 other professional athletes in addition to the named plaintiffs, including MLB and NHL players as well as other NFL players.

Smith, the attorney, said he has been contacted by representatives of MLB, NHL and NFL players concerning similar claims and alleged involvement with Crafton, but he declined to identify the players or their representatives.

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