• Athlete White Collar Crime

    Author : July 24, 2018

    Professional athletes often receive significant sums of money throughout their career. With careful planning and investment, this money can support them for the rest of their lives, even if they are lucky if their day job lasts a decade. When athletes are involved in crimes, you usually think of DUI, domestic violence, or even dog fighting. White-collar crimes like tax evasion occur often enough as well. But one ex-NFL player recently was convicted for fraud.

    Merrill Robertson, Jr. is a former linebacker with the Philadephia Eagles. He also worked for Merrill Lynch as a broker at one point. After leaving the firm, he and a friend formed ‘Cavalier Union Investments’ in 2010, according to court documents. From 2010 to 2016, Merrill got clients through his contacts at both the NFL and his alma mater, the University of Virginia. He misrepresented clients, claiming them that their funds would be invested safely, promising returns of between 10 and 20 percent. Instead, Merrill and his friend did not invest the money at all but rather used the money on personal luxuries, like car payments, vacations and spa visits.

    Federal prosecutors claim he defrauded his investors of over $10 million. As a result, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was found guilty of five counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and even two counts of money laundering.

    Another aspect to white-collar crime and athletes was brought up with the FBI's recent investigation into various universities with allegations that high-profile university basketball programs pay for top recruits. The Department of Justice has brought federal corruption charges against these schools, to the chagrin of college basketball fans everywhere. After all, violations of NCAA rules are not the same as committing a federal crime. But, solicitation of bribes is, in fact, a federal crime – which is why the FBI is probing the institution.

    The details of the investigation are compelling. Players from more than 20 Division I basketball programs were identified through the investigation. Prosecutors allege that coaches engaged in systematic bribery schemes where players were steered to certain schools, and received money funneled from sportswear companies and agents, despite their amateur player status. One scheme involved assistant coaches accepting cash payments from professional sports agents if they could encourage various high school players to commit to specific universities.

    The crimes that are specifically alleged are bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes, honest services fraud conspiracy, honest service fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and Travel Act conspiracy. To add to the intrigue, there are also suspicions that the NCAA punished the schools who were targeted by the investigation by keeping them out of the March Madness competition. Regardless, this could be a fascinating tipping point for college athletes, who contribute billions of dollars to the university system each year. Athletes cannot be compensated under the NCAA system, but the universities directly benefit from their labor. Public opinion is changing too, with many thinking the athletes should be compensated in ways other than free tuition or stipends.

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