Former NBA player Kermit Washington was arraigned Thursday in Kansas City on fraud charges related to an African charity he founded.
Defense attorney Robin Fowler entered a not guilty plea for Washington, who was arrested last month in California after a federal grand jury in Kansas City indicted him on charges related to his Project Contact Africa charity.
Federal prosecutors say he diverted nearly $500,000 in donations to the charity for his own benefit.
On Thursday, Washington pleaded not guilty to the charges of interfering with internal revenue laws, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obstruction of justice and aggravated identity theft.
Washington, 64, was known for a 1977 on-court incident in which he punched Rudy Tomjanovich during a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houtson Rockets. Tomjanovich was nearly killed by the punch that shattered bones in his face.
Some of the charges against Washington are connected to a criminal case involving Ron Mix, a lawyer and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mix pleaded guilty last month to a charge of filing a false tax return.
Mix illegally donated money to Project Contact Africa in exchange for Washington referring former professional athletes to him to represent in workers’ compensation cases in California, according to terms of his plea agreement.
Washington allegedly used his position as a regional representative for the National Basketball Players Association to refer clients to Mix.
The case against Washington is also related to a case involving pirated computer software that was also prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.
In that case, Washington allegedly allowed others to use his charity’s website to sell counterfeit computer products. By using the charity’s nonprofit status, sellers saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees they would have otherwise owed to eBay and PayPal, according to prosecutors.
Washington was allowed to remain free on bond. The next hearing in his case is scheduled for July 11.