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Sampson pleads not guilty to lying to authorities

5/16/2006 - NBA

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ralph Sampson pleaded not guilty Tuesday to
charges of lying to federal authorities about his finances in a
child support case. His trial was scheduled for July 17.

The former NBA and Virginia star waived the reading of the
indictment and answered routine questions during a 10-minute court
appearance. He responded "not guilty" when asked for his plea on
each of the four counts.

He is charged with perjury, making a false claim, mail fraud and
making a false statement. If convicted in the nonjury trial, he
faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on
each count, federal prosecutor Sara Flannery said.

The 7-foot-4 ex-player remains free on bond with travel
restrictions.

Sampson pleaded guilty last year in Richmond to failing to pay
about $300,000 in court-ordered child support for two children who
live in northern Virginia and have different mothers. Sentencing
was postponed after Sampson was indicted on the perjury and false
claim charges in January. A superseding indictment on May 3 added
the mail fraud and false statement charges.

The 46-year-old Sampson, who lives in Atlanta, made his first
court appearance on the child support charges in Georgia. The
latest indictment alleges that Sampson told authorities there that
he was self-employed by "Sampson Communications" and had no
income. Prosecutors claim Sampson was earning $5,000 per month as a
consultant for one company and made commercials and promotional
appearances for another in exchange for a $200,000 home.

The indictment also says Sampson denied owning a $43,000 sport
utility vehicle, which he bought using a corporate identity, and
that he sent documents regarding the SUV from Georgia to Virginia
for the purpose of defrauding a financing company.

Sampson was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Rockets in
1983. In nine NBA seasons, he averaged 15.4 points.