Lessons from TV One celebrity crime files

By Diane King

TV One should be applauded for casting light on shady sports agent tactics.

It was bad enough decades ago when college athletic standouts got a year away from being eligible to sign a professional sports contract. But, back in the 1960s and 1970s, professional athletes weren’t paid the big bucks they are today. Today when agents holler out, “show me the money,” as Tom Cruise did in the movie, Jerry Maguire, they don’t want to see hundreds of thousands of dollars. They want to see millions of dollars.

TV One shows that shady sports agents refuse to fade

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The larger the contract, the bigger the agent’s commission. The scent of long money has attracted unscrupulous agents. It’s also attracted shady financial advisors.

TV One recently ran a story on a professional baseball player’s scam. Corey Jenkins was a kid when he first ran into James Brown and Marion Darnell Jones. Brown and Jones hadn’t even gotten their feet wet working as sport agents. Jenkins became more than a “start-up project”. He got ripped off in the worst kind of way.

Brown and Jones knew Jenkins could use his talent and go far. They also knew Jenkins was naive. They kept in touch with Jenkins, a man who was 18 years old when the three men first met. They got to know Jenkins, gained his trust. That’s when the problems started.

Gaining an athlete’s trust

Before long, the older men, Brown and Jones, had started to feel like father figures to Jenkins. TV One showed that even Jenkins’ mother trusted the men. And why not? They attended her son’s baseball games. If Corey needed someone to talk with, their ears were open. On top of that, they dropped a list of celebrity client names to Corey, proof that they were good at what they did.

However, as TV One showed, it was Corey Jenkins who would help Brown and Jones to sign contracts with other up-and-coming talents. ESPN reports that, “Brown and Jones were masters of using clients’ families to connect with future marks. Through schools and churches. Summit quickly built a strong roster that included Reggie Taylor of Newberry (drafted by the Phillies in 1995); Stephen Davis of Spartanburg (Auburn, then the Redskins, 1996); Gookie Dawkins of Newberry (Reds, 1997); Victor Riley of Swansea (Auburn, then the Chiefs, 1998); and Preston Wilson of Bamberg (a Mets minor leaguer).”

Placing his trust in men he didn’t really know was the Corey Jenkins’ first misstep. But, it wasn’t his biggest mistake. His biggest mistake came when he turned over power of attorney to the agents. Any lawyer worth her weight will direct you not to give anyone power of attorney rights unless it’s absolutely (and that means “absolutely”) necessary. And even then, you should be presented with actual bank statements (ones you can get copies of from the bank) at least once a month.

That’s not what happened with Corey. His agents made up their own statements; Corey just thought the statements were legit. Soon his mother was receiving notices that her house, then her car, were being repossessed. How did the agents respond? They told her that her son was spending money recklessly. When Corey questioned where his money was going, the agents told him that his mother was spending money recklessly.

Breaking relationships before breaking the bank

It created a rift between son and mother . . . . for awhile. Then the light went off, but by that time it was too late. Corey’s baseball career with the Red Sox was on the ropes (he would go on to play football for the Miami Dolphins for a brief stint). Today, Corey coaches other athletes. He’s also sharing his story in the hopes that other future greats and their families will pay attention.

Lesson learned – watch where you place your trust. Don’t let a smile, compliments and “I love yous” blind you. Take full responsibility for your life (doesn’t matter how old you are). Only work with financial advisors who are licensed and registered with regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Don’t ask them if they’re registered. Contact the regulatory authorities and find out for yourself.

TV One made it clear that it’s smart to assume that people are lying to you when they ask to handle your money in any way (any way), then go back and validate that they are on the up and up. Stop thinking that managing money is like working magic. It’s basic math. Keep your eye on the ball. And never never ever sign over power of attorney to anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. Healthy athletes and entrepreneurs aren’t in absolutely necessary situations.

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http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=6408849 (ESPN)


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