Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Former NBA star Kermit Washington was arrested in Los Angeles on an indictment alleging he masterminded a charity fraud scheme, federal authorities announced Wednesday.

The indictment, returned in Monday by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, alleges that Washington used a charity he founded and operated, Project Contact Africa, to defraud donors, eBay, PayPal and the Internal Revenue Service, according to U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri.

Washington, 64, is charged with corruptly interfering with the internal revenue laws, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obstruction of justice and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“In order to induce individuals, including former professional athletes, to make donations to PCA, Washington falsely represented that 100 percent of the donations would go to Africa,” the Justice Department alleges.

Instead, Washington diverted charitable donations from PCA to buy gifts and cover personal expenses, including rent, vacations, jewelry and entertainment, the government alleges.

“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 Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

The indictment also alleges that Washington referred former professional athletes to former San Diego Chargers star-turned-attorney Ron Mix, whose practice focused on the filing of workers’ compensation claims on behalf of ex- athletes.

“In exchange for the referrals, Mix made payments to PCA and claimed those amounts as charitable deductions on his personal tax returns,” according to a DOJ statement.

Mix, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Missouri to a tax fraud charge in connection with the case. He faces a potential sentence of three years in prison and $250,000 fine.

Mix played for the Chargers from 1960 to 1969 and then two years for the Oakland Raiders. Many of his clients are former professional athletes who made claims for injuries suffered during their playing days, usually years after their careers ended, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Washington played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1973-78; for the then- San Diego Clippers from 1978-79; and later for the Portland Trail Blazers until his retirement in 1982.

Washington, who was arrested Tuesday in Los Angeles and made his initial appearance at the downtown federal courthouse, was ordered to surrender his passport. He was released on bond and must wear a location monitoring device.

His next court date is tentatively scheduled for June 16 before a U.S. magistrate judge in Missouri.

—Staff and wire reports

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