Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ex-agent among 4 charged with schemes to defraud pro players

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Former NBA agent Charles Briscoe, who at one point counted Dwight Howard among his clients, is among those charged with schemes to defraud four professional basketball players of more than $13 million, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Briscoe, who is no longer certified by the National Basketball Players Association, has not represented clients since 2022, the NBPA told The Athletic. He is also being sued in Delaware state court for allegedly making false representations to secure funding for his startup sports agency.
  • Investment adviser Darryl Cohen, financial planner Brian Gilder and Calvin Darden Jr., were the others charged; all four have been arrested.
  • The four have been charged in the Southern District of New York with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Cohen is also charged with one count of investment adviser fraud, and Briscoe with one count of aggravated identity theft.

The full complaint is available here.

What are the defendants accused of?

Briscoe and Darden

Among the alleged crimes is that one of the unnamed athletes transferred $7 million in November 2020 to an account controlled by Darden, 49, as part of a plan for the athlete to indirectly purchase a women’s professional basketball team. However, the money was instead transferred in part to Briscoe, 35, and not used to buy a team, and in part used to fund Darden’s own purchases of luxury goods. Because the athlete was still an active player, he was not allowed to directly own the women’s team.

Briscoe, Darden and a relative of Darden’s, who “serves or has served on the boards of multiple public companies,” allegedly discussed with the athlete an arrangement in which they would indirectly purchase a team through a company said to be controlled by the relative. Briscoe is alleged to have provided the athlete with a slide deck outlining a “vision plan” for the purchase of the team by the company, alleging that the company was advised by a board including “several prominent individuals in sports, entertainment and corporate America.” In actuality, “at least two of those individuals” never served as advisers to the company, the DOJ said.

Briscoe was allegedly transferred more than $1 million of the $7 million; Darden allegedly sent more than $400,000 of it to a cryptocurrency exchange, used $880,000 of it at luxury car companies and spent $100,000 on a piano, among other purchases, and used around $1 million for home improvements including the addition of a koi pond.

Briscoe and Darden are also alleged to have worked together to defraud another athlete by telling them that Briscoe was forming a new agency that would be mostly funded by that athlete. In turn, that athlete, who was being advised by Cohen, would take over the agency when they retired from playing. Gilder was the CEO of the agency. Briscoe allegedly told that athlete that the agency had signed “a highly touted athlete preparing for a professional basketball draft” and forged the signature of that prospect and their mother on a contract. Briscoe allegedly told the athlete funding the endeavor to transfer $1 million to the new signee as a “loan” ahead of the draft. The professional prospect allegedly never received any part of the loan and Briscoe used part of it to pay off his own debts and sent more than half of it to Darden.

Cohen and Gilder

The 49-year-old Cohen, meanwhile, is accused of defrauding three separate professional basketball player clients of more than $5 million from “at least in or about 2017 through in or about 2020” via his advisory and fiduciary relationships with them. He is alleged to have encouraged his clients to work with Gilder, also 49, who assisted with their tax preparation.

The pair is alleged to have “induced” the three players to purchase viatical life insurance policies from a law firm Gider controlled at “massive markups.” The firm allegedly purchased the policies and sold them to the athletes at markups of 222 percent, 310 percent and 244 percent each, making around $4.5 million on the sales.

Cohen also allegedly directed $500,000 be transferred from two of the athletes’ accounts as “purported donations to a non-profit organization.” He instead is alleged to have used about $238,000 to build “athletic training facilities” in his backyard. The athletes allegedly never agreed to transfer the funds, and when one “confronted” Cohen about it, Cohen texted him that the money “(h)elped a lot of future prospects and a lot of underprivileged kids.”

Finally, Cohen and Gilder are alleged to have used $328,125 of the athlete’s funding for the aforementioned new agency, without authorization, to repay a former professional player who was a “disgruntled” client of Cohen’s from 2018 to 2020. The former player had allegedly “expressed concern to Cohen about investments and loans that Cohen made on (their) behalf and demanded to be repaid” over multiple years. As they allegedly made those payments, the DOJ said that Cohen messaged Gilder: “We gotta send (the former player) more to get rid of him.”

(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

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