Former NBA player sentenced in Kansas City to federal prison for fraud, identity theft

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

A former NBA player famous for nearly killing another man on the basketball court has been sentenced in Kansas City for fraudulently taking money meant for an African charity.

Kermit Washington, 66, was sentenced to six years in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $967,158 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays after pleading guilty in November to two counts of filing a false tax return and one account of aggravated identity theft.

Washington's charity, The Sixth Man Foundation, while operating as Project Contact Africa, used eBay and a PayPal account to facilitate more than $12 million in payments for items that included counterfeit software.

Charging documents say customers of the Project Contact Africa eBay store believed "100 percent" of their proceeds were going to the charity, which purported to engage in a number of charitable activities, including funding medical clinics for needy families and HIV-positive children. Instead, Washington was found to have diverted the funds to an array of personal expenses including rent payments, vacation trips and plastic surgery for his girlfriend.

Washington also admitted to referring professional athletes to San Diego attorney Ronald Jack Mix, 80, for worker's compensation claims. In return for the referrals, Mix would make kickbacks to Washington's charity in amounts that would eventually total more than $155,000.

According to court documents, Washington also failed to declare this income on federal income tax returns from 2010 to 2014, and improperly claimed tens of thousands of dollars in personal charitable deductions.

Charging documents also state that Washington used "without lawful authority" the identity of a resident in Oregon so that Project Contact Africa could remain in active status within the state.

Washington is perhaps most well known for his involvement in one of the most gruesome NBA brawls in history when, during a game in 1977 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, Washington punched Rudy Tomjanovich, shattering bones in his face and nearly killing him.