How some of the NFL's biggest stars got taken for millions
In interviews, current and former NFL players say that Lukens was a chameleon, a man who could change his personality to meet the moment. "He was whatever he needed to be," says D'Marco Farr, 30, a former star defensive tackle with the St. Louis Rams.
Farr, who estimates he lost $200,000, recalls telling Lukens that he was a Christian. Soon, he says, they were talking about the Bible. Yet, he says, when he went on a trip to Las Vegas in 1996 with Lukens and several other players to watch a professional fight, he looked on as Lukens "gambled his ass off," wagering about $150,000 at a blackjack table. During that same trip, Farr says, Lukens brought the players up to his room, where "three or four women were sitting on a couch." He concluded they were prostitutes and told Lukens he was offended. "What is all this?" he recalls asking Lukens. "This ain't too Christian."
Farr says he got hooked after his initial $200,000 investment began turning fat--and fast--profits. It was, he says, "like a pusher feeding a drug user--the first one is free." Once, he says, Lukens even persuaded him to invest in a tree farm he hadn't seen. The investment failed.
Farr and Tampa Bay's Rice say they wanted to detail their experiences in the hope that their stories will help other players avoid their mistakes. Both men say they had no idea what they were getting into when they allowed Lukens to invest their money. Farr sued Lukens to get back some money; Rice obtained an arbitration judgment for $2.4 million against Lukens but hasn't been repaid.
Their stories show how financial advisers press to get their hooks into suddenly wealthy players. Rice, now 27, was an all-American at the University of Illinois and the third player selected in the 1996 draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Looking back, Rice says, his first impression of Lukens was that of a humble, father-type figure. In a statement given to the SEC, and in an extensive interview with U.S. News, he says he was at a publicity event in Orlando when he first learned of Lukens. Rice says a Lukens "runner"--an aide who recruits athletes--arranged to meet with him and urged him to visit with Lukens at his Global Sports offices in California.
Rice flew first class to Los Angeles, courtesy of Lukens. The next day, he was picked up in a limousine and driven to Lukens's offices. Lukens, he says, told him of some of his famous clients; his office was decorated with photographs of pro athletes and Hollywood celebrities.
Rice says he was especially impressed when Lukens said his clients included entertainer Bill Cosby and retired NFL running back Dickerson. Rice says he emphasized that his biggest concern was preserving capital so that he would be financially secure after his playing days were finished. Lukens, he says, told him he recommended only low-risk ventures for his clients and, Rice says, "personally guaranteed each investment."
Lukens also offered the low-interest $100,000 loan to tide Rice over until he received his first contract. Then, he says, although he hadn't asked for the money, Lukens insisted he take an envelope of cash. That evening, he ate dinner with Lukens, his wife, and three daughters. Rice says he told Lukens he wasn't well informed about investments and "would rely on him to guide me until I learned about these matters."