By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A prominent wine industry businessman and financial manager pleaded guilty in federal court in San Antonio on Monday to stealing millions of dollars from retired National Basketball Association superstar Tim Duncan.
Charles Banks, 49, faces up to 20 years in prison during his sentencing, due in June. He was indicted by a grand jury of two counts of federal wire fraud on suspicion of bilking the NBA star, court records unsealed in September showed.
Banks pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, regarding an investment he urged Duncan to make in a firm called Gameday Entertainment, which Banks headed.
After the hearing, Duncan, who played his entire NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs, told reporters: "I greatly appreciate the work of the Department of Justice and others who have seen the wrongs committed and helped me take action in the hope that others will never have to go through this." According to court documents, Duncan's losses totaled $13.5 million in investments and loan guarantees made to Gameday, which went out of business this year.
Prosecutors said much of that money went into Banks' pockets.
Defense lawyers said in court on Monday some of that money has been forgiven by the banks that provided the original loans.
Duncan is also suing Banks in civil court.
Banks is the founder of Terrior Capital, a financial management fund that works in the wine and hospitality industry.
Duncan retired at the end of last season after 19 seasons with the Spurs.
The scam was discovered when Duncan's ex-wife consulted a financial planner to put together a property settlement for their divorce, court documents said.
(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Richard Chang)