GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Former Michigan State basketball star Jay Vincent pleaded guilty Tuesday to two crimes linked to a $2 million Internet scam, a stunning fall for a homegrown sports hero who also played in the NBA.
Vincent, 51, pleaded guilty to a fraud charge and a tax charge in federal court in Grand Rapids, just six weeks after he was indicted.
Prosecutors say Vincent and an associate, Anthony Portee, defrauded 20,000 people by charging them to become certified home inspectors through a business called Foreclosure Bank Inspection Co.
No inspectors were hired, and the business had no contracts with banks, according to the government.
"FBIC maintained several offices in the Lansing area and placed advertising in newspapers around the country, as well as on the Internet," the U.S. attorney's office said in a written statement.
Vincent will be sentenced on Feb 7. Defense lawyer Charles Ford said some prison time is likely, although he will contest the number of the victims and the value of the fraud. Those will be key issues for U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker.
"Mr. Vincent wants to right the ship," Ford told The Associated Press. "He had a legitimate business. There were things that happened that just weren't appropriate and became the norm. Things got out of hand."
Vincent and Magic Johnson, who both grew up in Lansing, played on the 1979 Michigan State national championship team. Vincent spent the 1980s in the NBA with Dallas, Washington, Denver, San Antonio, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged 15 points a game.