Game Over: How Con Men Took a Pro Athlete for Everything

April 23, 2011  |  

(ESPN) — IT WAS THE KIND of sweltering Columbia, S.C., day Corey Jenkins usually spent bringing folks to their feet, legging out a double or snaring a line drive. But on this afternoon, June 1, 1995, the 18-year-old star was earning an ovation at Dreher High’s graduation. After the ceremony, as he made his way through the throng in the Carolina Coliseum, Corey saw James Brown, one of his agents. “The Red Sox took you in the first round,” Brown said. The good news for Jenkins was better news for Brown. He and Darnell Jones, his partner at Summit Management, had big plans for Corey and his cash.

WAIT. STOP. Excuse us as we stand on the brakes and screech to a halt. We’re not going to tell one more story about how quickly and horribly things can go wrong for a young athlete. We could, of course: Jenkins is still putting his life back together, nearly 20 years after he first met Brown and Jones. But you already know athletes get scammed all the time. Michael Vick wasduped while he was facing dogfighting charges and again while he was in Leavenworth. Scottie Pippen just held a giant yard sale after losing much of his $100 million in career earnings to bad investments. John Elway sank $15 million into a hedge-fund Ponzi scheme.

A full rogues’ gallery of shady agents and financial advisers have populated sports pages over the years: Luigi DiFonzo, Marc Dreier, Robert Allen Stanford, Triton Financial, Kirk Wright. And the big picture never seems to change: In 2009, Sports Illustrated found 78 percent of NFLers were either bankrupt or under severe financial stress within two years of retirement, and 60 percent of NBA players were bankrupt within five. In 2002, U.S. News & World Report reported that 78 NFL players had been defrauded of a combined $42 million over the previous three years.

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