Rolando Blackman poses with Captain Morgan at the American Airlines Center in March 2011. (Brandon Wade/AP)
Sometimes, when it gets real quiet in my apartment, I find myself wondering: Hey, how's former Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks guard Rolando Blackman doing? Luckily, I work for a prominent Internet search company, so I can find out the answer — the four-time NBA All-Star, who's one of just two players ever to have his jersey retired by the Mavs, is doing just fine, thanks, working as an assistant coach with the Turkish national basketball team. OK, great!
Oh, wait — it says something else here. Apparently, Blackman also might be bilking fellow former professional athletes out of large sums of money as part of a possibly phony project related to "the exploration and refinement of gold." Not so great!
Blackman and engineer David K. Mureeba are being sued in Dallas County District Court by Nate Jones, a defensive back who played for the Dallas Cowboys from 2004 through 2007, spent a couple of years with the Miami Dolphins and last appeared in the NFL with the New England Patriots in 2011. According to his complaint, which you can read in full here, Jones claims that Blackman and Mureeba approached him about investing in East Africa Power and Energy of Uganda, Ltd.
The company's website brands it as a startup allegedly working to establish a clean-energy industry in Uganda; apparently, as David Lee of Courthouse News Service reports, that process needs to be kickstarted by moving a bunch of gold from Tanzania to Western Europe:
"Mr. Blackman and Mr. Mureeba represented to plaintiff that his money would only go to further the purposes of the project," the complaint states. "Mr. Blackman and Mr. Mureeba represented to plaintiff that his investment would be used to meet EAP&E's need to airlift precious metals from Dar es Salaam to Antwerp, Belgium, where it would be sold to a refinery."
Jones claims the defendants "guaranteed" him a 4 percent return on net proceeds from the sale.
Here's the thing — and you're not going to believe this — apparently that guaranteed ROI wasn't quick in coming.
Four months after Blackman and Mureeba traveled to Europe and Africa for the project, Jones still hadn't heard word one about any of his $150,000 coming back to him, so he checked in to find out what was going on. More from Jones' suit:
"The same day plaintiff requested information from Mr. Blackman and Mr. Mureeba, plaintiff received a letter from Mr. Blackman written by an attorney representing Mr. Blackman, and addressed to another investor in the project," the complaint states. "Among other things, the content of the letter expressed the following: (a) Mr. Blackman will have no relationship with [the] investor in connection with any business activity, including in particular, the project; (b) to immediately cease and desist any communications related to the project or any other project Mr. Blackman is involved in; and (c) for the investor to refrain from disparaging or making false statements about Mr. Blackman."
Jones claims says that in January, Mureeba told him the project had become "complicated" and that he had moved on to other projects.
In February, Jones says, he made a formal demand for an accounting and the return of his money and that the defendants have failed to respond.
Jones is accusing Blackman and Mureeba of fraud and breach of contract. He's suing to get back his $150,000, plus court fees and additional punitive damages.
Amazingly, this isn't the first time in recent memory that a former NBA All-Star has been accused of attempting to facilitate an allegedly-less-than-above-board transaction related to African gold. Last January, 18-year NBA veteran Dikembe Mutombo was accused of acting as a go-between in a failed deal to purchase more than 1,000 pounds of Congolese gold from an extremely dangerous warlord. Mutombo never publicly commented on the matter, but he made some commercials we all liked, and now we don't think about that anymore, so look for Rolando Blackman to try to hook up with Old Spice and Geico sometime soon.
In the meantime, while we come not to blame any prospective victims of alleged malfeasance, it probably remains a good idea to be very careful about someone asking you to give them money for the airlifting and refinement of precious metals. Remember: An ounce of caution is worth a pound of not-getting-beat-for-$150,000.
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