Former Georgia Coach Charged In Ponzi Scheme

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The Securities and Exchange Commission says former University of Georgia football coach Jim Donnan used his influence to get high-profile college coaches and former players to invest $80 million into a Ponzi scheme. Donnan has denied the allegations

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a Ponzi scheme charge.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: A former college football coach who made a name for himself in the Southeastern Conference, has caught the attention of a different SEC. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating former Georgia coach Jim Donnan.

Here's more from John Lorinc, of member station WUGA.

JOHN LORINC, BYLINE: The SEC accuses Donnan and his business associate of fraud. The agency claims the pair tapped into former players, coaches and others, to sustain a Ponzi scheme.

RON CARLSON: The agency not only used one, but two football metaphors.

LORINC: That's University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson.

CARLSON: The SEC stated Donnan and his partner were merely pulling an old page out of the Ponzi scheme playbook, and the clock eventually ran out.

LORINC: The case is in federal court, and Carlson says that means Donnan's legal team has an uphill battle.

CARLSON: It's often said that a federal trial is simply a long guilty plea.

LORINC: Donnan has denied the allegations, saying he wanted to help others financially. But Bill Hicks, with the SEC, doesn't believe that. He says Donnan conned about 100 people into investing $80 million during a three-year period.

BILL HICK: The story was that they bought, you know, liquidated merchandise from stores, and had arrangements to pre-sell it most of the time. And it was a safe investment that paid, you know - they promised different people different things, but 50 to 380 percent a year.

LORINC: Donnan faces a series of financial penalties. In addition to coaching, Jim Donnan also worked as a college football analyst for ESPN.

For NPR News, I'm John Lorinc in Athens, Georgia.

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