A former special assistant for the Seattle Supersonics is facing a wire fraud charge for what prosecutors are describing as a Ponzi scheme that falsely claimed a relationship with Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and took in $4 million from investors. Steve Gordon was charged with a single count of wire fraud in a charging document known as an "information" that typically suggests a plea agreement has been reached. If convicted, Gordon could face up to twenty years in federal prison.
Gordon, who was a former longtime assistant for the Supersonics, originally met Ballmer back in 1990 when Gordon agreed to provide private basketball lessons to Ballmer and his friends. Ballmer, who eventually rose to become the top executive at Microsoft Corp. and subsequently purchased the Los Angeles Clippers, later agreed to provide Gordon with a monthly $9,900 stipend to help Gordon with purported financial difficulties. According to authorities, Gordon used the bank account documents showing the relationship with Ballmer to solicit potential investors, including former athletes, who believed that Ballmer and Gordon were business partners.
Potential investors were told several different stories, including that (i) Ballmer was preparing to invest in a major basketball promotional venture overseas in Australia and China, (ii) that Ballmer was preparing to establish a substantial investment fund to be run by Gordon, and (iii) he had deals with a billing management company and a Section 8 housing project. In at least one instance, an investor participated in nearly one dozen phone calls from 2011 to 2013 with who he believed to be Steve Ballmer; according to authorities, those calls were from an individual recruited by Gordon to impersonate Ballmer. In total, Gordon is alleged to have raised over $4 million from at least 30 people.
According to the Seattle Times, Gordon is scheduled to appear in a Seattle federal court on Wednesday morning.
Gordon becomes the third individual to face Ponzi scheme charges in as many weeks with a connection to professional sports. Earlier this month, former Minnesota Viking Stu Voigt was charged with a multi-million dollar real estate Ponzi scheme, which came on the heels of charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission against former Miami Dolphins player Will Allen.