Ex-NBA player Kermit Washington pleads guilty in fraud case
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former NBA player Kermit Washington has pleaded guilty to spending thousands of dollars donated to an African charity he organized on jewelry, vacations and other personal items.
Washington, 66, of Las Vegas, played for several NBA teams in the 1970s and 1980s and is best known for throwing a punch that fractured Houston Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich’s face and left him unconscious during a 1977 game. Washington was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers at the time.
Washington was scheduled to go to trial in federal court Monday in Kansas City, Missouri, but instead pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of making a false statement in a tax return and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Prosecutors accused Washington of using his position as representative of the National Basketball Players Association to refer professional athletes to Ronald Jack Mix, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and San Diego lawyer who specialized in workers’ compensation cases. Mix filed workers’ compensation cases for the athletes and then donated about $155,000 to Washington’s charity, The Sixth Man Foundation.
In his plea, Washington admitted that he diverted that money to pay himself and for personal expenses. He also admitted that he didn’t report that income to the charity on Project Contact Africa’s IRS filings for several years.
Mix, 78, pleaded guilty in May 2016 to filing a false tax return. He admitted he made donations ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 for referrals of athletes and then claimed those payments as charitable contributions on his individual tax returns from 2010 to 2013.
Washington also admitted that he accepted $82,025 in contributions to his charity from Reza Davachi, 43, of Damascus, Maryland, which he also diverted for his personal use.
The investigation into Washington arose from an earlier Kansas City-based federal investigation into pirated software that involved Davachi and several other people and became one of the largest software piracy schemes ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. The defendants in that case were accused of paying Washington to allow them to sell items through Project Contact Africa’s website, saving them money in fees that would have been owed to PayPal and eBay if the items were not sold through a charity. The waived fees cost eBay/PayPal about $908,000. Davachi pleaded guilty in October 2015 to his role in the scheme.
Washington also admitted that used the identity of another person in numerous state and federal filings on behalf of the charity to perpetuate the fraud.
A co-defendant, Patricia Harris, 65, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Kansas City to making false declarations before a grand jury. She admitted she co-authored false minutes for purported meetings of the charity’s board of directors meetings in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 that never occurred.
Washington and Harris are among 11 defendants who have pleaded guilty in the related cases arising from the software piracy conspiracy and charity fraud scheme.
No sentencing date has been set for Washington.