How some of the NFL's biggest stars got taken for millions
Not long after he was selected in the first round of the National Football League player draft--a development that would soon make him a millionaire--Simeon Rice met Donald Dayton Lukens, a smooth-talking investment adviser from Southern California. Fancy cars, a $2 million hillside mansion, and a client list that turned heads--Lukens had it all, and he made a lasting first impression on the kid who grew up on the mean streets of Chicago's South Side. In that first meeting, in the spring of 1996, Rice says, Lukens promised the young man untold riches. He also offered him a $100,000 loan at 1 percent interest. Then he sealed the deal: "As we left the office," Rice says, "Lukens handed me an envelope with several thousand dollars of cash inside."
Now, nearly six years later, and $2.4 million poorer, Rice, a marquee defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wishes he had never met Don Lukens. He's not alone. At least 13 other current or former NFL players, including Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, paid a hefty price for allowing Lukens to manage their money. His empire collapsed last year under a crush of debts, the result of lousy investments and a fast-paced, free-spending lifestyle, which included heavy gambling at Las Vegas blackjack tables. Lukens filed for bankruptcy in California, listing $47 million in debts and less than $1 million in assets. The FBI now is investigating him, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, in a civil complaint, has accused him of defrauding investors, sports figures, and others of perhaps $25 million.
Unfortunately, the Lukens case isn't unusual. U.S. News examined more than 20 investment deals involving current and former NFL players and found a veritable who's who of victims. In exclusive interviews with the magazine, the players described how they were allegedly defrauded. The schemes varied, but two stand out. One involves Lukens. The other snared Buffalo Bills cornerback Antoine Winfield. He says he was bilked of $1.35 million by a close friend and financial adviser. The Winfield and Lukens episodes illuminate the sometimes tawdry world of player recruitment. Some other examples:
U.S. News has learned that FBI agents and the SEC are investigating whether former all-pro running back Robert Smith was defrauded of more than $1 million. The SEC has questioned an Ohio man, Von C. Cummings, about his handling of Smith's money, which
Cummings says was invested in a hedge fund. In an interview, Cummings maintains that he did nothing wrong and says Smith didn't lose any money. Smith, who retired from the Minnesota Vikings after the 2000 season, could not be reached for comment.
In January last year, Marion Darnell Jones and James E. Brown were indicted by a federal grand jury in South Carolina on 56 counts, including fraud and money laundering. At least three NFL players, including Washington Redskins Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis, were allegedly defrauded, according to federal investigators. Davis lost about $200,000. Brown later pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and has agreed to testify against Jones, who has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial later this year.