Wrong Clyde Austin?

Last Updated 3/24/2006

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That was when Clyde Austin, a former star basketball player at N.C. State was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison for fraud and money laundering in the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va.Austin is remembered by old timers as the victim of Dudley Bradley's steal in the closing moments of a UNC-N.C. State game in Reynolds Coliseum to defeat the Wolfpack.The shot missed and Austin got the rebound.As he was coming upcourt and the State fans were going wild at the prospects of winning after having erased a big Carolina lead, Bradley stole the ball and made a monster dunk.State had one last shot but missed from midcourt and you could hear a pin drop in Reynolds Coliseum.You might wonder why I want to write about Austin when I have never met him.I felt like I knew him, however, since there was a connection between a former assistant of mine and Austin.They had played high school basketball together here in Richmond and he would tell me stories stories about Austin as the two would meet occasionally over the years.The first story I heard was that Austin had accidentally shot his toe off one night as they were riding around in an automobile.I have no idea what the gun was doing in the car but we might be surprised at how many guns are in cars, some for good reasons and others for reasons that are questionable.I mention this because, if true, this makes Austin's basketball accomplishments even more amazing because the loss of a toe to a basketball player is no minor thing. I also remember a quote from Austin during his freshman year after a game in the old Big Four Tournament in Greensboro.When he was asked by reporters about the large number of turn overs he had in the game, Austin's response was that he "didn't know they kept up with things like that."Welcome to the ACC.But back to Austin's difficulties that caused him to have to spend the next 16 1/2 years in prison.My assistant had told me that Austin was doing well financially.He had a big car, owned an eating establishment near St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, and for a while, performed with the Harlem Globetrotters.Oh, I almost forgot.He had become a minister.According to Austin, he developed an investment scheme that was going to make everybody involved a lot of money with little or no risk.I don't doubt that Austin originally intended to help those who gave him money to invest, but it's hard to believe that anyone cannot fail to see that the Ponzi scheme will eventually peter out.If you get your money early and get out, you are safe, but those who remain the scheme are doomed to eventually lose their money.Huge profits are promised but the only way they can be paid is if new investors are located.Eventually, funds coming in are not sufficient to pay the early investors and the scheme collapses.What makes Austin's situation worse than most is that he took money from over 1000 investors who trusted him as a minister, only to see their investment disappear when the recruitment of new investors ran out.The total amount of money involved was over $16 million dollars.Austin was ordered by the judge to make restitution but there is little hope that investors will ever see any return on and of their investment.Many of the investors were in the court room when Austin was sentenced.J.B.Thomas of Belpre, Ohio came "to see justice done" and he said he was not sure it was done.M.Thomas lost $215,000 in his dealings with Austin.The most tragic part of the Clyde Austin story is that many of the investors were people he had met through his ministry and it causes one to wonder if Austin tried to capitalize on the position of trust he had by virtue of being a minister.Two of the co-defendants were also ministers.Austin said there was one thing he hadn't counted on and that " one thing was greed."When arrested, he was operating out of Las Vegas, Nevada, a long way from his roots in Richmond.I think of Austin every now and then and I must admit I feel somewhat sorry for him.He did wrong, but there is a possibility he lacked the knowledge to understand exactly what he was doing.He will have a long time to ponder his behavior, but it's difficult to see how the 1000 persons swindled out of their money will be made whole again.

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TimesDispatch.com | Austin's smooth moves now no more than distant memory

> Austin's smooth moves now no more than distant memoryClyde the Glide was exposed that night.But never moreso than he's been laid bare over the past six months.It's a sad and tawdry story, one made sadder still by the possibilities and assumptions it shattered.We all wanted to believe in Clyde Austin.We wanted to believe the poor kid from Richmond's mean streets had made it on his own, through hard work and diligence.We wanted to believe he'd found piece of mind as well as a piece of the rock.We wanted to believe he was a decent, straight-arrow guy.The God-fearing victims who trusted him with their dreams and cash wanted to believe in Austin, too.They believed in his guileless facade.They believed in his light-a-room smile.They believed in his pledge to turn their investments into profit.Looks like he had us all fooled.The last time I saw Austin was seven years ago in Raleigh.He looked good, nicely dressed, content.He was marketing mail-order vitamins and had some investment property in town.He owned a minor-league basketball team - the Raleigh Cougars of the summertime USBL.He was an ordained minister who traveled a far-flung circuit, speaking at various houses of worship."When all is said and done about Clyde Austin," he said, "I want it to be known that I tried to help somebody."The somebody turned out to be himself.He was socked with 17½ years of hard time Thursday - his sentence for orchestrating a phony investment scheme that defrauded more than 1,000 victims of about $16 million.The judge could've given him 14 years in the slammer per federal guidelines.He threw in an extra 3½ because Austin's swath of deceit was so widespread.He and his cohorts (ex-VCU ace Monty Knight, among them) were the lowest form of swindlers - double-dealers who hid behind veils of spiritual righteousness to bilk unsuspecting churchgoers of their savings.When the house of cards collapsed, Austin was domiciled in Las Vegas.So near and yet so far from the lost innocence of his youth.Grinding poverty ("I came from that - I hate that") was the touchstone he fought to escape until he ran too far and too fast.He spoke of his background that day in Raleigh, of visions, of maybe even converting his bush-league venture into something far more grand."Who's to say we can't get an NBA team?"he said.Clyde the Glide is a tattered memory now.Better to be stripped of a basketball than your future, your freedom, your good name.

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Clyde Austin was arrested by federal agents Friday in Nevada. Former basketball star Clyde "The Glide" Austin is in federal custody in Nevada this weekend, where he was arrested on an indictment accusing him of using his status as a celebrity and a minister to lure people into fraudulent investments. The former N.C. State University standout, NBA player and Harlem Globetrotter is charged with persuading about 200 people to give him more than $10 million to invest in programs that promised wildly high returns but actually paid off little or nothing. Austin, an ordained minister who lived in Cary until moving to Nevada four years ago, is accused of preying on investors solicited through churches in North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and Missouri.Many of the victims lost their retirement savings to his schemes, according to the indictment. The indictment also charges three Richmond, Va., men whom it says Austin recruited and then enticed into becoming his partners in a far-flung scam.A federal grand jury in Richmond returned the indictment Thursday, and after warrants for the four men were issued Friday, FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents arrested Austin later that day. Austin, 45, will be held in a Nevada jail until a detention hearing there Wednesday.Last month, in response to a story in The News & Observer about his growing financial problems, Austin said in a letter to the editor that he had never broken the law and had gotten an attorney's opinion on the legality of his operations.He said he had been the victim of unscrupulous associates and had made "good-faith investments which went bad through no fault of my own." Austin moved to Las Vegas in 1999 after the N.C. Attorney General's Office sued him for running an illegal operation that dealt in overseas investments and health-care products.To settle that lawsuit, Austin paid about $400,000 of the $2 million investors lost. He said at the time that he didn't know the operation was illegal.But the federal indictment accuses him of expanding similar unlawful financial schemes into other states after that. The indictment calls Austin's financial programs a Ponzi scheme, in which the money from newer investors was used to pay off earlier investors and there was no profit from a legitimate business enterprise.Austin and his partners usually paid investors for a few months to make the program seem legitimate and to encourage further investments, according to the charges. At one point, no new investments were coming in and Austin and his partners came up with a variety of excuses for not making monthly interest payments to previous investors -- blaming the delay on a hurricane, the Internal Revenue Service or problems associated with Y2K, according to the charges. Austin relied on unnamed former professional basketball players and ministers to solicit new investors, the indictment says.Austin had a dozen salesmen recruiting investors from churches in North Carolina, the federal charges say.Austin played for NCSU in the 1970s and then played briefly for the Philadelphia 76ers before spending 10 years with the Globetrotters.He grew up in the Richmond, Va., area and played high school basketball there.

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