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Ex-Olympic champ Montgomery charged in bank-fraud scheme

Saturday, April 29, 2006

NEW YORK -- Olympic gold medalist Tim Montgomery was arrested Friday on charges that he was connected to a multimillion-dollar bank fraud and money laundering scheme, prosecutors said.

A grand jury indictment unsealed in New York accused the star sprinter, his gold medalist track coach, Steven Riddick, and 12 other people of being involved in a conspiracy that deposited $5 million in stolen, altered or counterfeit checks over three years.

Some of the money was laundered through a coffee businesses owned by a New York couple, according to the indictment.

Montgomery, the former 100-meter world record holder, surrendered to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Norfolk, Va., on Friday morning. He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance at a federal court in Norfolk on Friday afternoon.

His attorney, Robert McFarland, did not immediately return a phone message.

Investigators accused Montgomery of being a lesser player in a scheme hatched by lead defendants Douglas Shyne and Natasha Singh.

The couple are accused of setting up sham businesses to take checks stolen from banks and either alter them or make counterfeit copies.

Most of the checks were written by large companies that didn't immediately notice the cash missing, federal agents said.

Montgomery, who the indictment said knew the family through an acquaintence, deposited three bogus checks worth a total of $775,000. Only one of them cleared. Montgomery picked up a $20,000 fee for the transaction, prosecutors said.

The arrest is just the latest in a series of bad twists for the one-time superstar.

The 31-year-old runner was banned from track and field for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for doping based on evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of BALCO, the lab at the center of a steroid scandal in sports. Montgomery retired in December rather than wait out the suspension.

All of Montgomery's performances were wiped off the books as of March 31, 2001, including his world record dash of 9.78 seconds in 2002. Montgomery won his gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the 2000 Olympics.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Martin Ficke said the fraud investigation began in 2005 after a bank alerted authorities about one of the suspicious checks, and was unrelated to the BALCO probe.

Most of the other defendants in the case have already been arrested and arraigned in sealed court proceedings, including Riddick, who is accused of depositing at least $905,000 in stolen checks.

Three people associated with the case have already pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.


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