The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas recently announced that District Court Judge Keith P. Ellison has sentenced former financial adviser Peggy Ann Fulford to 120 months in prison—that’s 10 years. Fulford defrauded a number of professional athletes, including ex-NBA basketball players Dennis Rodman and Travis Best, former Heisman trough winner Ricky Williams, as well as NFL football players Lex Hilliard and Ricky Williams, of millions of dollars. The former broker, who is from Houston and was based out of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property in 2018.
Fulford, who also used the last names King, Williams, Simpson, Rivers, and Barard as her aliases, along with the names Devon Cole and Devin Barard, admitted that she falsely told her former clients that she had degrees from Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, as well as that she had made millions of dollars on Wall Street. She told her victims that they didn’t need to pay her a fee because she was already wealthy and just wanted to help them protect their funds.
Instead, Fulford, who was supposed to manage their money and pay their bills for them, diverted millions of dollars to support her own lavish spending habits. Even after pleading guilty and while out on bond in this criminal case, Fulford, as Peggy Jones, allegedly defrauded another man out of $25K.
Pro Athletes and Investment Fraud
Unfortunately, many professional athletes have been defrauded over the years by investment advisers seeking to take advantage of their investment inexperience and multimillion-dollar salaries. Just this month, Merrill Lynch (BAC) was ordered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to pay $300K for inadequately supervising the broker who defrauded ex-NFL player Dwight Freeney of a few million dollars. The former Merrill Lynch broker, Eva Weinberg, and her lover Michael Stern were sentenced to time in prison for the fraud.
A few months ago, former Morgan Stanley (MS) broker Aaron Parthemer, who had already been barred by FINRA, became the subject of investor fraud complaints brought by former NBA player Udonis Haslem and ex-NFL Player Louis Delmas. Parthemer was formerly a National Football League Players Association Registered Financial Adviser.
Many pro athletes are young and unsophisticated investors when they first turn to a financial adviser for help in managing and growing their millions. Law360 reports that according to a recent study conducted by Ernst & Young, from 2004 to 2017 professional athletes reported almost $500M in losses caused by fraud. The study noted that 41% of the athletes bilked were football players.
Pro Athlete Investor Fraud
At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LLP (SSEK Law Firm), we have successfully represented a number of professional athletes in FINRA arbitration to recover their losses caused by the wrongful actions of a money manager, broker, or financial adviser. Our investor fraud lawyers understand the sensitive nature of these types of cases, especially for public figures. We help our clients navigate the challenges brought on by investor claims, including the need for many to keep their names and all proceedings confidential. We know that for many athletes their time making money playing their sport is finite and losing their earnings can prove devastating for their families and their future.
SSEK Law Firm is a Texas-based investor fraud firm that represents investors throughout the state and nationwide. Contact us today.