Prosecutors charged a Los Angeles man with nearly a dozen felonies in connection with an alleged scheme to fraudulently sell season tickets and shares in the Miami Heat basketball team, victimizing such celebrities as Nick Cannon and former NFL quarterback Warren Moon, authorities announced Friday.
George French Jones, 45, was named in an 11-count criminal complaint — including fraud, grand theft and identity theft — filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by prosecutors with the California Attorney General’s Office who worked in concert with the Federal Bureau Investigation, the Los Angeles County Probation Department and the Los Angeles Police Department.
French, who would face a maximum of nine years in state prison if convicted on all counts, including special allegations that losses to victims exceeded $100,000, was arrested without incident at Los Angeles International Airport on a probation violation after arriving from Florida on Feb. 21. He is due back in court March 12.
Authorities began investigating Jones in March 2013 after security representatives for the NBA and the Miami Heat contacted the FBI in Miami, alleging that he attempted to sell a minority interest in the Heat “to several NFL and NBA athletes,” according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges that those contacted include former NFL player Jarvis Green, who was offered a share in the NBA franchise for $25,000. Authorities also allege French contacted a representative for Moon and said he was working with a broker who represented a minority interest owner of the Heat looking to sell that interest. French also is accused of selling Moon and his representative four courtside seats that he claimed belonged to the minority interest owner, Sidney Kimmel, for $200,000.
Cannon, the husband of singer Mariah Carey, was allegedly scammed out of $15,000 to get “an ownership interest in the Atlanta Hawks,” according to a law enforcement source. It was not immediately clear how French was able to persuade Cannon to take such a small interest, the source said.
First published March 7 2014, 5:11 PM