GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) – Former NBA player and Michigan State star Jay Vincent is asking a judge to keep him out of prison so he can repay victims of a fraud scheme.

The 52-year-old Vincent is returning to federal court in Grand Rapids for his sentence Friday. He pleaded guilty to fraud and tax charges.

The government says he and an associate defrauded 20,000 people out of more than $1 million. The charges cover a period from Jan. 1, 2006 to Aug. 25, 2009 and involves Vincent’s business “Foreclosure Bank Inspection Co.”

The company claimed to test, certify and employ people to inspect bank foreclosed homes, and advertised that the company had contracts and received large checks from major banks to do the work. In reality, the copies of contracts and checks used in the ads were altered or counterfeit, the indictment said.

The company also did not hire contractors to perform inspections. What it did do was charge $149 to provide liability insurance for each job applicant and $89 for background checks, according to the indictment.

False insurance policies were prepared in the company’s offices and no background checks were made, the indictment said. Tests, completed and returned by applicants, were stored in boxes without reviews.

In the income tax charge, Vincent is accused of reporting a business income of $62,438 on his 2008 tax return. Authorities said the actual amount he earned was $330,269.

In a court filing, prosecutors are recommending nine years in prison.

Former NBA star Magic Johnson wrote a letter to the judge asking for “mercy” for Vincent. He says his former college roommate is “incredibly remorseful.”

“I know what he did was wrong and I hope in time he will be able to repay all the people who lost money in this situation,” Johnson said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker. “I believe he got involved with the wrong people and made some really bad decisions.”

Johnson and Vincent played on Michigan State’s 1979 national championship team.

Vincent played for the Spartans until 1981.Dallas drafted him with the first pick of the second round in 1981. He averaged 21.4 points per game his rookie season and spent five seasons with the Mavericks. He later played for Washington, Denver, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers, ending his NBA career with Philadelphia in 1990.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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