NBA legend Tim Duncan accused his former financial adviser, Charles Augustus Banks IV, of defrauding him out of $7.5 million. Banks, in turn, called the champion power forward's complaints about him "naïve and immature."
Now a jury may hear directly from the recently retired pro to see who they believe.
Duncan, who played for the San Antonio Spurs for almost 20 years, is prepared to testify against his former longtime adviser in federal court, if prosecutors ask him to do so, according to J. Tullos Wells, the Spurs general counsel, who is representing Duncan. The government, which levied wire fraud charges against Banks, recently increased the number of charges to four from two.
The NBA champion accuses Banks, now best known as a wine entrepreneur, of bilking him out of the cash he invested in Gameday Entertainment, a sports merchandising company run by Banks, in the case filed in district court in San Antonio, Texas.
That $7.5 million investment is one of many that Duncan says he made in Banks' ventures and it’s just a portion of a total $26 million that Duncan lost with his former adviser, the ex-NBA player's legal team says.
Duncan also invested in Banks’ “ultraluxury lifestyle” company, Terroir Capital, which owns Mayacamas, Qupé and other wineries in Napa Valley, South Africa and Burgundy, France. The Terroir investment claim is not part of the San Antonio lawsuit.
"Justice is going to catch up with him sooner or later," Wells said of Banks.
A member of Banks’ legal team declined to comment. Attempts to reach Banks were unsuccessful.
The court battle is set to be joined May 30 in San Antonio, which celebrated Duncan's retirement in December with a ceremony.
Quote"Justice is going to catch up with him sooner or later." — J. Tullos Wells, San Antonio Spurs general counsel who is representing Tim Duncan
Banks’ legal team had sought a change in venue, arguing that it would be impossible for Banks to get a fair trial in Texas, where Duncan "enjoys the admiration and love of millions of fans," according to a filing in the case.
"A special ceremony to retire [Duncan's] number is scheduled for two days after the filing of this motion," Banks legal team wrote in a Dec. 19 court filing, referring to a celebration in the city of San Antonio marking Duncan's retirement. "In this situation, Mr. Banks simply cannot receive a fair trial, because jurors in this case will be predisposed to find against him."
Prosecutors argued that even Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was tried in the same city where the bombing occurred.
The judge denied Banks' request.
After being handcuffed and perp-walked into a San Antonio courthouse in September, Banks was freed on $1 million bail, ordered to restrict his travel and refrain from "excessive use of alcohol" before the trial.
Each of the four wire charges against him carries a maximum 20-year sentence.
The SEC filed a parallel case that is still pending against Banks, who used to run the advisory firm CSI Capital Management before SunTrust Bank bought it in 2011.
Duncan also filed a civil suit against Banks over the Gameday investment in district court in Denver, Colorado.
While the criminal case is underway, that action has been stayed, according to Wells.
"We are all waiting to see what happens with the criminal case," says Wells. "We have two governmental agencies who take priority over what we can do."
Banks, who maintained his innocence in an interview last year and defends himself vigorously in court filings, originally convinced the athlete to loan Gameday $7.5 million back in 2012, the basketball pro’s legal team alleges.
TEXT PROMPTS WIRE FRAUD CHARGE
The next year, the Lone Tree, Colorado-based company needed more money, according to prosecutors.
On June 4, 2013, the adviser sent his client a text, (sic) "On the good news front Gameday is crushing. We are changing your 7.5m loan to 6m. Paying it down 1.5m. Sending you an amendment to the loan I need you to send back when you get it."
Duncan texted back expressing confusion about the request, but signed documents authorizing the restructuring after Banks assured him the move meant "all great news" for him, according to the complaint.
Banks is facing wire fraud charges partially based on those texts for allegedly misrepresenting the loan terms.
"Mr. Duncan's act of faxing the signed loan agreement signature pages from San Antonio, Texas to California was the most significant act that made Banks' multimillion-dollar wire fraud scheme successful," prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
The fate of investments Duncan has made into Terroir are unknown, Wells says, given that Banks has refused to provide any details about them. Terroir owns more than a dozen brands that produce 500,000 cases of wine annually, according to industry publication The Drinks Business.
Across this and other investments, Banks took more than $1 million in fees he did not disclose to Duncan, the complaint says.