Former NBA Player’s Nine-Year Prison Sentence Affirmed for Role in a $2 Million Ponzi Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
PHILADELPHIA, P.A. – C. Tate George, former NBA basketball player and the CEO of purported real estate development firm The George Group, today lost his appeal of the nine-year prison sentence he received for his role in orchestrating a $2 million real estate investment Ponzi scheme, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
George had raised multiple issues on appeal. Each was rejected, in a three-judge panel opinion, written by Judge Thomas M. Hardiman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
George had argued, among other things, that the Government had withheld evidence proving his innocence while, at the same time, ensuring his conviction based on false testimony from an FBI agent. The panel disagreed, noting that the evidence George identified was “inculpatory, not exculpatory.” It labeled “fallacious” the suggestion that the Government could have withheld from George his own bank account information. Not only did George and his attorneys have access to the account information, the same bank accounts also were used to prove George’s guilt and did not qualify as the type of information that could be improperly withheld.
The panel also rejected George’s claim that an FBI agent had falsely testified against him, pointing out his argument was based on a mischaracterization of the agent’s testimony. Far from admitting the FBI had not properly conducted its investigation into George’s finances, the agent actually had, “multiple times” testified the FBI had conducted a “thorough pre-trial investigation.”
The opinion also disagreed that George had uncovered new evidence showing there were no victims of his scheme. That evidence, which took the form of a forensic accounting, showed George’s own business dealings and, therefore, could not be newly discovered. It also “would not have been admissible at trial in any event” because of the district court’s ruling that it was so flawed as to not qualify as a true forensic accounting.
Finally, the panel concluded the trial court had properly enhanced George’s sentence because George had perjured himself at trial and because of the magnitude of the hardship he had caused his multiple victims. It concluded by stating it had considered George’s other “miscellaneous arguments” but found them to be “without merit.”
According to documents filed in this case and the 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, George used the money from new investors to pay existing investors in Ponzi-scheme fashion, as well as paying for his daughter’s sixteenth birthday party, 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” – which was made available on YouTube. The George Group had virtually no income-generating operations.
In addition to his prison sentence, which will be followed by three years’ supervised release, the court affirmed the order requiring George to pay $2.55 million in restitution.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce P. Keller of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Appeals Division in Newark. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Intrater, now Deputy Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit, represented the government at George’s trial.
Updated April 5, 2017
Press Release Number: 17-106