By Ray Sanchez
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former NBA player and chief executive officer of a New Jersey real estate development firm surrendered to federal authorities on Friday on charges of running a $2 million Ponzi scheme.
Tate George, 43, who once played for the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, allegedly collected money from investors from 2005 through March of this year and deposited it in the bank accounts of his company, which he claimed was a real estate investment firm, authorities said.
George also deposited some of the money in personal bank accounts, according to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
The criminal complaint said that George, instead of financing real estate development projects, as he told investors, used some of the money to pay other investors as well as for home-improvement projects, meals, clothing and gas. His firm "had virtually no income generating operations," the complaint said.
Prosecutors said George claimed that his firm, The George Group, had more than $500 million in assets. His investors, including several former professional athletes, put up more than $2 million that George's firm was to use for purchasing and developing projects in Florida, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey, the complaint said.
George was charged with one count of wire fraud.
If convicted, George faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
George was a first-round draft pick who spent three seasons with the New Jersey Nets and played three games for the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)