This time of the year, Hall of Famer Charles Barkley usually spends his Thursdays getting prepared for TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”
But Barkley spent this Thursday in Alabama testifying in a federal fraud case against Donald Watkins Sr. and Donald Watkins Jr.
The father and son are charged with seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one conspiracy count, according to AL.com.
Barkley’s connection to them is that he invested and loaned money to the elder Watkins and his companies between 2007 and 2014. According to testimony, the Hall of Famer lost $6.15 million and has never been paid back.
Barkley met Watkins Sr. when visiting his mother in Birmingham, Alabama, and the two developed a friendship.
Watkins then told Barkley about several business ventures including Masada, a biofuels company with headquarters in Birmingham.
“I thought he owned Masada,” Barkley said, according to AL.com. “I thought he owned all of it, to be honest with you. … I remember there was a lady, I thought they owned it together.”
But it turns out Watkins didn’t own Masada. One of the company’s co-founders said he offered half of Masada to Watkins but Watkins never purchased any shares.
Watkins approached Barkley and told him Waste Management was interested in buying Masada, which sparked Barkley’s interest to invest in the company.
“Donald was a friend of mine. I trusted him. I had no reason not to trust him,” Barkley said.
He admitted that he didn’t get his longtime financial adviser, Glenn Guthrie, to look over the proposal.
“I take full responsibility for (Guthrie) not being involved. … I take full responsibly for this thing,” Barkley said. “I lent the money to Donald plain and simple. … That’s my fault.”
The money that Barkley invested in Watkins’ companies ended up going toward the Watkins’ personal expenses.
Barkley testified that he has never been repaid for his loans or seen a return on his investments. Financial records show that Watkins Sr. used the money for personal loans, bills and other payments.
Over his 16-year NBA career, Barkley made over $43 million, and he said he doesn’t expect to ever see any of the $6.15 million he invested with Watkins.
“My testimony is I’m out 6.15 million and I have not gotten a dime back, and it’s 2019,” Barkley said. “That’s my testimony. … I’m assuming I’ve lost my money. … I’m assuming the money is gone.”
Barkley wasn’t the only athlete to invest millions of dollars in the Watkinses’ scheme. Former NFL linebackers Takeo Spikes and Carlos Emmons were also investors in Masada, believing the company was worth billions, according to USA Today.
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