Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Kermit Washington pleaded guilty to identity theft and tax fraud charges after he stole money from the charity he founded.
Washington accepted an estimated $155,000 in donations to his charity, The Sixth Man Foundation. The organization, which operated under the name Project Contact Africa, was envisioned to help schools and combat hunger in Kenya and East Africa, according to its Facebook page.
Washington Accepted Illegal Referral Payments Through His Charity
According to reports, the 66-year-old retired athlete colluded with San Diego-based lawyer Ronald Jack Mix in an elaborate scheme to defraud the government of tax money. Allegedly, Washington used his influence as a regional representative for the National Basketball Association to refer athletes to Mix for his legal services involving compensation disputes. Mix, a retired athlete himself and member of the NFL Hall of Fame, then made donations to the charity in exchange for these client referrals from Washington.
Through his law firm, Mix made donations to the charity in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. While Mix claimed the payments as charitable contributions on his tax returns, prosecutors argued that they represented illegal referral payments to Washington.
Money Meant For Charity Was Taken For Personal Use
Then, Washington diverted funds from the charity to his own personal bank account. He also confessed that he did not include this income to the charity on the organization’s IRS filings.
The Kansas City Star also reported that Washington accepted $82,000 in donations from Reza Davachi, a Maryland man who was once implicated in a large software piracy case. Washington diverted the money from Davachi to pay himself or for personal expenses.
As part of the plea bargain, the government prosecutor agreed to drop the bigger charge that could have meant Washington facing up to eight years in prison.
The Infamous Punch
Washington played for 12 seasons in the NBA, averaging 9.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists for his career. His best season was with the Lakers when he averaged 11.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. However, the 6-foot-8-inch player was best known for almost ending Houston Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich’s career. During a game, Washington threw a punch that shattered Tomjanovich’s face and jaw on Dec. 9, 1977. The NBA suspended Washington for 60 days and fined him $10,000 following the incident.