Former NBA Player Indicted For African Charity Fraud

REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

Josh Hamburger Contributor
Font Size:

Former NBA all-star Kermit Washington, best known for brutally punching an opponent during his playing career, was indicted and subsequently arrested for his role in a charity fraud scheme.

The Department of Justice alleges that Washington used his charity Project Contact Africa (PCA) to fund his own lifestyle. PCA’s website claims that it seeks to train teachers and provide medical care to children in Africa.

“Washington falsely represented that 100 percent of the donations would go to Africa,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “However, Washington diverted charitable donations from PCA to buy gifts and pay personal expenses, including rent, vacations, jewelry and entertainment.”

The Justice Department unsealed the indictment Wednesday Wednesday, following Washington’s arrest Tuesday.

It alleges that he defrauded donors, eBay and PayPal and the Internal Revenue Service, and that the one-time NBA All-Star, who had a successful 11-year career, “used his celebrity status to exploit” donors.

“Individuals who use charitable organizations to defraud donors and evade tax obligations inflict substantial harm on every U.S. taxpayer and cause untold damage to well-intentioned charitable endeavors,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.

Washington allegedly also has ties to former NFL player Ron Mix, who pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return on Monday. Mix would send money to PCA that he would write off as “charitable deductions,” and Washington would refer clients to his law office, authorities allege.

“Upon receipt of these payments, Washington diverted the funds for his own personal benefit,” the DOJ said.

The charity also has ties to a 2015 case, U.S. v. Davachi, where an individual pleaded guilty to using PCA’s eBay account “to sell unauthorized, illicit and counterfeit software and software components.” That operation had gone on since 2004 and brought the charity’s account nearly $12 million in revenue, while costing eBay more than $900,000.

It is unknown how much total money he took in from the charity, but Mix had paid him about $155,000 in false donations. PCA’s Facebook page shows a video and picture of Washington on a trip to Kenya in April and May 2015.

In 1977, Washington, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, punched Houston Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich during a game, breaking his jaw and nose. The injuries sustained from the punch forced him out for months and nearly killed him.

Washington, 64, will face charges of “corruptly interfering with the internal revenue laws, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obstruction of justice and aggravated identity theft” when he stands trial. He could face decades in prison if convicted.