A former University of Kentucky football player, who worked as the basketball program's director of operations from 2001-06, has been charged with 14 counts of fraud and allegedly swindled current and former NBA players out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The defendant in question, Leon Smith, left the University of Kentucky's athletic department in 2011 and became a financial adviser for players in the area. An indictment from a federal grand jury has pinned $1.298 million in fraud claims against Smith, plus "aggravated identity theft and money laundering" -- totaling 14 counts -- according to Yahoo Sports, which broke the news Monday.
Smith ran a local advisement firm in Lexington, Ky., where UK is based. The four players who were defrauded are not specifically identified in the indictment, but Yahoo Sports cites Shelvin Mack, Darius Miller and Josh Harrellson as three of the four men wronged in the case. Mack, who is from Lexington but attended Butler, currently plays for the Utah Jazz. Miller and Harrellson are UK alumni and previously played in the NBA. The alleged crimes were committed between 2011-15.
The indictment says Smith was authorized to "conduct financial transactions on (clients') behalf and therefore entrusted Smith with his or her financial account data, dates of birth, social security numbers, and other personal and financial data." Smith, the indictment alleges, then used that access to siphon athletes' money into his own business accounts.
According to court records, Smith has been given a May 15 arraignment date in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Ky. If found guilty of all counts, Smith could face a maximum penalty of more than 30 years in prison and a monetary forfeiture of the $1.298 million he is alleged to have stolen. ...
According to the website RealGm.com, the three players all have the same agent, Doug Neustadt. A phone message left for Neustadt was not immediately returned Monday. Mack declined comment through a Butler spokesman. The University of Kentucky also declined comment, citing a policy not to comment on pending litigation.
Leon Smith, in fact, was ensconced in UK's athletic culture for nearly two decades. He graduated from the university in 1995, and after Tubby Smith left UK for Minnesota in 2007, Leon Smith (no relation) was the assistant athletic director to longtime Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart.
Per documents obtained by Yahoo Sports, Smith made at least four illegal wire transfers to his Legacy Pro Management Group account. He also, on nine occasions, per the federal indictment, forged players' signatures. Smith is due for arraignment in Lexington on May 15. He could face more than 30 years in federal prison if found guilty of all charges, in addition to paying back the money he allegedly bamboozled.