Stolpen pleaded guilty to bank fraud

Updated: August 23, 2004, 6:25 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Spencer Stolpen, former president of the Charlotte Hornets, was sentenced to 15 months in prison Monday for scheming to defraud banks to pay off his mounting debts.

Federal prosecutors said Stolpen was facing rising overdue bills in 2002 when he engaged in the fraud scheme. Stolpen pleaded guilty to bank fraud and filing a fraudulent bank loan application.

Last November, federal prosecutors filed a plea agreement that called for the 15-month sentence. Stolpen was accused of forging a $110,000 check in 2002 and depositing it into his personal checking account, prosecutors said.

According to court documents, Stolpen had checks drawn against the fraudulently created balance in his personal checking account and made payable to "his impatient debtors," and defaulted on a $449,500 mortgage loan in early 2002.

Stolpen also was accused of filing a fraudulent personal financial statement with BB&T Bank in support of a loan application. Prosecutors said the financial statement listed more than $800,000 in liquid assets that Stolpen did not own.

Stolpen was Hornets president for more than five years before he was let go by owner George Shinn in May 1996. Stolpen had worked 13 years for Shinn, starting out as a teacher in one of his business schools.

Stolpen lost his Florida law license in 1981 after the state bar demanded his records and he refused to supply them. He was disbarred and a short time later filed for bankruptcy, claiming he owed $400,000.

Stolpen also was one of 14 men indicted in 1979 on charges of conspiring to smuggle marijuana in Florida. According to the indictment, he agreed to send money to a suspected drug smuggler in South America.

Stolpen denied the charge, which was later thrown out because police made a paperwork error when they sought court permission for a wiretap.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press