By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – A wine industry businessman and financial manager was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday for defrauding millions of dollars from former National Basketball Association star Tim Duncan.
Charles Banks, 49, had faced up to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in April to one count of wire fraud regarding an investment he urged Duncan to make in a firm called Gameday Entertainment, which Banks headed.
U.S. District Judge Fred Biery also ordered Banks pay $7.5 million to Duncan in restitution.
San Antonio Spurs great Duncan, who is now retired, said in a statement he was afraid that without a strong sentence, financial advisers would feel they were free to prey on young, impressionable and suddenly wealthy athletes.
“Judge Biery, you may not understand how difficult it is for me to be in the public light in this horrible way, as the poster child for a dumb athlete whose financial advisor took his money,” Duncan said in a statement read into the court record by prosecutors.
“I hate it and am embarrassed by it more than you can imagine.” Several NBA players were in the courtroom to support Duncan, including former teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
After the hearing, Duncan told reporters he was satisfied with the sentence.
In a brief statement before sentencing, Banks apologized to Duncan for “breaking his trust,” by tricking him into agreeing to make loans to a failing sports merchandise company headed by Banks.
According to court documents, Duncan’s losses totaled $13.5 million in investments and loan guarantees made to Gameday, which went out of business this year.
Prosecutors said much of that money went into Banks’ pockets.Defense lawyers said in court in April that some of that money has been forgiven by the banks that provided the original loans.
Banks is also the founder of Terroir Capital, a financial management fund that works in the wine and hospitality industry.
Duncan retired at the end of last season after 19 seasons with the Spurs.
The scam was discovered when Duncan’s divorce lawyer consulted a financial planner to put together a property settlement for the basketball star’s divorce, court documents said.
(Reporting by Jim Forysth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio)