Associated Press

Former UConn hero George to be sentenced for Ponzi scheme

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The man responsible for one of the greatest moments in the history of the UConn basketball program is due to be sentenced for running a Ponzi scheme.

Tate George, whose shot as time expired beat Clemson in the Sweet 16 of the 1990 NCAA tournament, began the process of being sentenced for running a Ponzi scheme estimated to have cost investors in upwards of $7 million. George was convicted on four counts of wire fraud in September 2013, with investors such as former UConn player Charlie Villanueva and former NBA player Brevin Knight among those who lost money in the real estate scam.

Another person who lost money was Randall Pinkett, the winner of “The Apprentice” in 2005. Pinkett was awarded $145,000 in a civil suit he filed against George. Multiple real estate projects fell through as past of the scheme that will land George behind bars.

Prosecutors charged that George’s claims that he had a personal net worth of $12 million and that his company had a real estate portfolio of more than $500 million were both false because the totals in both instances were closer to zero. Numerous real estate projects fell through and were never built – even though the investors had provided money to George for the projects. George testified that the $500 million figure was accurate because it included projects on which he served as a consultant and others that had not yet been built.

George was given time to prepare for the sentencing portion of the trial by U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper since he, without prior law experience, took the step of representing himself. According to the Hartford Courant, George’s dismissal of two attorneys resulted in multiple delays to the trial.

Despite George’s decision to represent himself, George was assigned an attorney by Judge Cooper to help him prepare his defense. George could end up serving up to nine years in prison as a result of his conviction, with the two sides making arguments as to how much money was lost in the scheme. That will have an impact the length of George’s sentence.

U-Conned: Charlie Villanueva testified Husky legend, alleged Ponzi schemer Tate George defrauded $250k

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Tate George made one of the most important shots in UConn history, a highlight that has been played over and over again during all NCAA tournaments.

With just one second left on the clock in a 1990 Sweet 16 matchup with Clemson, George caught a pass that was thrown the length of the floor and hit a turn-around jumper for a buzzer-beating, 71-70 win. You’ve seen the play before. If you’re a UConn fan, you know the name Tate George.

Unfortunately, life for George has taken a turn for the worse. Two years ago, George turned himself in to federal authorities on charges that he ran a Ponzi scheme that netted him more than $2 million for fake real estate deals. He faces five counts of wire fraud, each carrying with it a maximum sentence of 20 years.

To make matters worse, one of the people that George conned out of money was another Husky alum, Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva had just signed a $30 million deal with the Pistons, and as a way to give back to the Connecticut community, he invested $250,000 with George in a project he believed would help develop a rundown area in Bridgeport. The Trentonian has the details:

George didn’t send a key letter to the home of Detroit Piston Charlie Villanueva in Rochester, Michigan, testimony revealed. The papers saying the pro baller’s $250,000 could be used any way George wanted instead were mistakenly sent to Rochester, Minn.

Villanueva wasn’t the only former NBA player that George conned out of a six figure investment. He also tricked Brevin Knight out of $300,000 that was supposed to be used to buy a home in New Jersey. George instead used the money to pay off investors from prior deals.