Former NBA player Kermit Washington pleads guilty in KC to African charity fraud

Kermit Washington during his NBA playing days.
Kermit Washington during his NBA playing days. AP file photo

A former NBA player known for an infamous on-court punch that nearly killed another player has pleaded guilty to fraudulently taking money meant for an African charity he ran.

Kermit Washington, who was scheduled to go to trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, instead pleaded guilty to two counts of making a false statement in a tax return and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Washington, 66, of Las Vegas, referred professional athletes to San Diego attorney Ronald Jack Mix so that Mix could file workers’ compensation claims in California on behalf of the athletes, according to federal prosecutors.

Washington used his position as a regional representative for the National Basketball Players Association to refer clients to Mix.

Mix then agreed to make donations to Washington’s charity, The Sixth Man Foundation, which did business as Project Contact Africa.

Washington accepted about $155,000 in donations to his charity, which were actually illegal referral payments from Mix and his law firm, prosecutors said.

Washington then diverted money from the charity’s bank account to pay himself or for personal spending. Washington admitted that he failed to account for this income to the charity on Project Contact Africa’s IRS filings during those years.

Mix, 78, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, pleaded guilty last year to filing a false tax return.

Mix made donations ranging ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 for referrals of athletes, some of whom lived in the Western District of Missouri. Mix then claimed those payments as charitable contributions on his individual tax returns from 2010 to 2013.

The case against Washington also involved a Maryland man, Reza Davachi, who was once prosecuted in a separate case in one of the largest software piracy crimes ever handled by U.S. authorities.

Washington accepted about $82,000 in contributions to his charity from Davachi, and also diverted those funds from the charity’s bank account to pay himself or for personal spending.

In 1977, Washington was involved in one of the ugliest on-court incidents in NBA history.

During a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets, Washington punched Rudy Tomjanovich, shattering bones in a his face and nearly killing Tomjanovich.

A sentencing date for Washington has not been set.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc