Cleveland-Area Investment Principal Found Guilty of Fraud Cover-Up

Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter (l to r)When Joseph Lombardo pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court in November to fraudulently attempting to retain a service contract with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), there remained the issue of his employee, Carolyn Kaufman. That loose end was resolved last month. On December 11, Kaufman, a principal with the Independence, Ohio (suburban Cleveland) investment firm of Prim Capital Corporation, was found guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and perjury related to an illegal attempt by her boss to renew a multi-million service contract with the association. Lombardo had forged the signature of a deceased players’ union general counsel and another union employee.

Carolyn Kaufman, now 72, played an auxiliary role in this. As Union Corruption Update has explained (here and here), Joseph Lombardo, founder and managing director of Prim Capital, was on the wrong side of a growing rift within Derek Fisher, star point guard and association president, and Billy Hunter, association executive director (see photo, left to right). The Fisher faction had hired a New York law firm to prepare a full audit on possible mismanagement by Hunter and his allies, one of whom was Lombardo, whose firm had managed player benefits over the last several years. Eager to renew the contract, this one for five years at $602,000 a year, Lombardo rubber-stamped his own signature, plus that of NBPA General Counsel Gary Hall and another union employee. The audit concluded the latter two signatures were forgeries, as Hall had died in March 2011.

During this time, the U.S. Labor Department had been conducting its own probe, concluding there was a basis for prosecution. It handed over the case to the Justice Department, which in turn assembled a grand jury. Kaufman testified before the grand jury that neither she nor Lombardo forged anyone’s signature. Yet in a secretly-recorded conversation, Lombardo could be heard coaching Kaufman on how to evade questions. Eventually, in the spring of 2013, each was arrested and indicted. Lombardo pleaded guilty on November 14 and is due for sentencing March 20. As for Kaufman, she plans to appeal her conviction, claiming she was unaware of any attempt at forgery.