Tate George charged in Jersey scheme

NEWARK, N.J. -- Tate George, who hit one of the most memorable shots in UConn basketball history and then went on to a brief NBA career, surrendered to federal authorities in New Jersey on Friday to face charges stemming from what prosecutors say was a Ponzi scheme.

George used his company, which he purported to be a real estate investment firm, to run a more than $2 million scam, prosecutors said.

George's attorney, Thomas Ashley, said his client was innocent of the charges and planned to plead not guilty.

Prosecutors claim that between 2005 and March 2011, George persuaded people, including former professional athletes, to invest in what he promised would be high-return real estate development projects in Florida, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey.

He claimed to be managing a real estate portfolio of more than $500 million in assets as CEO of The George Group and personally guaranteed people returns on their investments, plus interest, according to prosecutors.

George instead used some of the new investor money to make principal and interest payments to existing investors, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. He also used the money for improvements on his home and personal expenses including gas, restaurant meals and clothing, Fishman said.

Wearing a gray-green suit and with his wrists handcuffed in front of him at his first appearance Friday in Newark federal court, the 43-year-old George spoke briefly to say he understood his rights. Bail was set at $250,000, secured by a property bond signed by George's mother, who was in court with other family members.

George is perhaps best known for a shot he made playing for the University of Connecticut, when his last-second turnaround jumper at the buzzer in 1990 gave UConn a victory in the NCAA regional semifinal game against Clemson. That earned him a spot among 25 members of Connecticut's All-Century Team, as voted on by a panel of experts and fans in 2001.

He was the New Jersey Nets' first-round pick in the 1990 NBA draft. He played in 177 NBA games in four seasons for the Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 4.2 points per game.

George would face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.