U.S. ex-college football star sentenced to prison

By Jim Leckrone

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Art Schlichter, a former Ohio State University star whose professional football career was cut short by gambling problems, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for a sports ticket scam, officials said on Friday.

Schlichter, 51, pleaded guilty on Thursday to 13 felony counts, including 12 theft-related offenses and a racketeering charge, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O'Brien said.

Schlichter admitted to stealing more than $1 million from his victims by promising to use their money to get tickets to Ohio State football games, the Super Bowl and other sporting events. But he instead used the money to finance his gambling.

One of his victims was Anita Barney, the 69-year-old widow of Robert Barney, the former chairman of the Wendy's hamburger chain who died in 2007.

Schlichter, who has been in county jail pending court action, has also entered a plea agreement in a federal case, and was expected to formally plead guilty at a later date, according to Steven Nolder, his federal public defender.

"This has been the last chapter of a tragic story," Nolder said.

Schlichter was expected to be released from prison while waiting for the imposition of the federal sentence, Nolder said. His release could take place next week, once authorities set up an electronic monitoring system to keep track of his movements.

Schlichter's state sentence will run concurrently with his federal sentence, which under the agreement is eight years and four months. He will start his term in federal prison, and it is possible he could be released after the federal term is up, Nolder said.

Nolder said he hoped the federal prison would provide a program "to help Art recover" from his gambling addiction.

"This is one of those cases where everyone walks away a loser," Nolder said.

Schlichter has had a long history of career and legal troubles related to gambling. He served 12 years in prison for engaging in forgery and fraud to support his addiction.

A quarterback at Ohio State, Schlichter was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1982, where he was in frequent trouble due to gambling. He was picked up by the Buffalo Bills in 1986, but was cut before the season began.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Jim Leckrone; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)