July 6, 2017

Would-be Hartford soccer stadium developer found guilty of fraud

Mitch Anderson (left) pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges related to a scheme to redevelop Hartford's Dillon Stadium. His business partner TJ Duckett (far right) was found guilty of similar charges.

James Duckett Jr., the would-be developer of a $12 million soccer stadium in Hartford, was found guilty Thursday of bilking the city out of more than a million dollars as part of a scheme to bring pro soccer to the Capital City.

Duckett, 45, was found guilty of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering offenses stemming from a plan to redevelop Hartford's Dillon Stadium.

According to the evidence at trial in Hartford federal court, in Sept. 2014, the city of Hartford entered into a professional services agreement with Mitchell Anderson and his company, Premier Sports Management Group (PSMG), to secure a professional soccer team and to develop a new, 9,000 seat facility at the Dillon Stadium location.

Under the terms of the agreement, PSMG was entitled to receive $775,000 for serving as the project manager for the $12 million plan. In Feb. 2015, Anderson joined with Duckett who agreed to be the majority owner of the professional soccer team. Duckett and Anderson represented to various city officials that PSMG and Duckett's Black Diamond Consulting Group had merged for purposes of completing the Dillon Stadium project and securing the professional soccer team, court documents said.

Duckett represented that he was a former professional football player in the NFL and that Black Diamond was involved in a casino project and sports-related projects in Las Vegas and Atlanta, court documents said.

Beginning in approximately March 2015, Anderson submitted invoices to the city for reimbursement to PSMG subcontractors working on the project. However, rather than pay the total amounts owed to PSMG's subcontractors, Duckett and Anderson directed more than $1 million that PSMG received from the city to themselves, PSMG, Black Diamond, and other entities not related to the Dillon Stadium project, court records said.

Duckett and Anderson also secured invoices from subcontractors who had not performed work for the project, which Duckett and Anderson caused to be submitted to the city as if the work had been performed. Duckett and Anderson then illegally used the proceeds of the fraud in a series of bank transactions to pay individuals and companies for expenses unrelated to the Dillon Stadium, court records show.

The investigation revealed that Duckett used funds that the city provided to PSMG to purchase a Range Rover that cost approximately $120,000, to pay unrelated attorneys' fees and a $20,000 "finder's fee" to an individual, and for other personal expenses including luxury clothing and jewelry items.

The jury found Duckett guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and eight counts of conducting illegal monetary transactions. The jury found Duckett not guilty of one count of conducting illegal monetary transactions.

Each of the conspiracy and wire fraud counts carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, and each count of conducting illegal monetary transactions carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.

A sentencing date is not scheduled.

Duckett was arrested on June 23, 2016. He is currently released on bond, on home detention with electronic monitoring.

On Feb. 6, 2017, Anderson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and one count of conducting illegal monetary transactions. He awaits sentencing. Anderson has agreed to repay the city and two subcontractors $1.1 million.

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