Attorney: Sampson to plead guilty to mail fraud

RICHMOND, Va. -- Former NBA and Virginia star Ralph Sampson has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud and serve two months in jail, his attorney said Wednesday.

Sampson is to enter the plea in U.S. District Court in Richmond on Thursday, the day his trial was scheduled to begin.

"It's been signed," Sampson's attorney James C. Roberts said Wednesday afternoon. "I worked hard to get it, so I hope it's the right outcome."

Roberts said Sampson will serve the jail term in Atlanta, where he lives, but Roberts said he will ask U.S. District Judges James Spencer to delay Sampson's incarceration until the spring of 2007. He declined to say why.

Ann Helms, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Richmond, said federal prosecutors could not comment until Thursday.

Roberts said prosecutors will drop charges of perjury, making a false claim and making a false statement about his finances in a child support case. Sampson faced a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count if convicted in the non-jury trial, prosecutors had said.

Sampson was not available for comment, Roberts said.

Under the agreement, Sampson is to plead guilty to mail fraud related to his purchase of a vehicle through a corporation in 2004.

Sampson, 46, 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.

Sampson made his first court appearance on the child support charges in Georgia. The latest indictment alleged Sampson told authorities there that he was self-employed by "Sampson Communications" and had no income. Prosecutors contended Sampson earned $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 said 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 is to pay the $300,000 in back child support under an earlier agreement with federal prosecutors.