TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Sentencing for a former NBA player convicted of ripping off investors in a Ponzi scheme was postponed Wednesday as attorneys for each side squabbled over how much money his victims lost.
Tate George was scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Trenton, but after a status conference between attorneys and U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper, the sentencing was pushed back to Aug. 19-20 to allow for more time to decide the monetary issue.
George, a former UConn star who later played for the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, is best remembered for a buzzer-beating shot in the NCAA Tournament in a 1990 game against Clemson.
George didn’t attend the hearing. He has been held in jail in New Jersey since his conviction last fall on four wire fraud counts.
The U.S. attorney’s office said George operated a Ponzi scheme by persuading victims, including other pro athletes, to invest in a purported real estate opportunity.
Instead of purchasing the real estate he’d touted, prosecutors said, George used the money to pay off earlier investors and to cover personal expenses.
Wire fraud carries a maximum 20-year sentence, though defendants rarely receive the maximum. Since George had no previous criminal history, his sentence under federal guidelines will depend largely on the total monetary loss to his victims, George’s attorney, David Schafer, said Wednesday.
That figure has been estimated at about $2 million, but Schafer said the government is claiming a higher figure based on more victims than the seven who testified at trial. He said he is seeking a sentence of three to four years, while the government is pushing for about nine years.
The U.S. attorney’s office, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on what sentence it was seeking.
“Mr. George had a consulting and development business over many years,” Schafer said. “The government is basically going back and seeing who is claiming to be a victim.”
Among the witnesses testifying for the prosecution at George’s trial were Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva and “The Apprentice” winner Randal Pinkett.
George’s victims will have the opportunity to testify at his sentencing. Schafer said he expects George to speak as well.
Follow David Porter at www.twitter.com/DavidPorter—AP