Sat, Jul 15, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Jones linked to bad check scandal

FAST BUCK?Sprinter Marion Jones has been connected to a money laundering case involving her ex-boyfriend, former 100m men's world record holder Tim Montgomey

AP , NEW YORK

US track star Marion Jones listens to questions during a press conference in Rome on Thursday on the eve of the Golden Gala International Athletics meeting.

PHOTO: AP

Bank records connect sprinter Marion Jones to an alleged check-counterfeiting scheme that led to criminal charges against her coach and ex-boyfriend Tim Montgomery.

Documents filed in a federal court in Manhattan show a US$25,000 check made out to Jones was deposited in her bank account from a Virginia man whom prosecutors have accused of enlisting friends and business partners to help launder the proceeds of the multimillion-dollar plot.

The money was drawn on an account established with one of US$5 million worth of stolen, forged or doctored checks that investigators said the conspiracy attempted to cash over three years. The five-time Olympic gold medalist has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and prosecutors initially took pains to keep her name out of the case.

In an indictment unsealed in April she was referred to as a "close associate of Timothy Montgomery."

Her name subsequently surfaced in court filings late last month by one of the defense attorneys.

None of those court records reveal whether Jones was aware of the source of the money or was personally involved in collecting the payment. A photocopy of the US$25,000 check is signed with her name.

That check was deposited but never cleared, meaning Jones never received the money.

Federal prosecutors declined to discuss Jones' role in the case, noting that she has not been charged. Prosecutors said a grand jury continues to hear evidence related to the case. Further charges are possible.

Jones' agent, Charles Wells, did not return a phone message on Thursday. A lawyer who has frequently represented her, Richard Nichols, also did not return a phone call.

At least 11 people have been indicted so far in the case.

Jones' coach, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist Steven Riddick, was arrested in February on charges that he helped a ring of New York con artists convert bogus checks into cash by laundering them through accounts he controlled.

In the scheme described by prosecutors, some of the funds were sent to Riddick in the state of Virginia, then funneled back to New York through a network of "friends, relatives and associates."

Prosecutors charged Montgomery, the former 100m world record holder, with depositing three of the bad checks and taking a US$20,000 commission for passing some funds back to the conspirators.

Riddick and Montgomery have both pleaded innocent.

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