Riddick & Tim Set Up?



Former track Olympians accused in counterfeit-check scheme
By BILL BURKE, The Virginian-Pilot
© June 26, 2006

Early last year, the father of a First Colonial High School football player approached track star Tim Montgomery and asked if he would work with his son on speed and conditioning.

Who better than the “fastest human on Earth” - a Norfolk State alumnus who then owned the world record in the 100 meters and an Olympic gold medal to boot?

In the aftermath of that encounter, Montgomery and his former track coach, Steve Riddick, also an Olympic gold medalist, stand accused of playing roles in a $5 million New York-based counterfeit-check and money-laundering operation. Riddick’s business partner, Nathaniel Alexander, also is charged in the plot.

Tim Montgomery
“Efforts were made to use Mr. Montgomery because of his accomplishments and celebrity,” said Robert W. McFarland, Montgomery’s Norfolk attorney. “But he denies any wrongdoing in this matter and looks forward to being exonerated.”

Nathaniel Alexander
Alexander, a business partner of Steve Riddick, is one of three locals indicted in the case. “This is a malicious prosecution to go after two Olympic gold medalists, using my client, who’s innocent,” said Michael Fineman, a New York attorney who represents Alexander.

Steve Riddick
Riddick said he did not know those in New York who were indicted. “There was one person that they knew in New York who was down here, and I guess he found a way to get to us 'cause we was athletes. We did nothing wrong. I’m embarrassed that I got scammed.”

But were the Hampton Roads men willing participants in a phony-check conspiracy? Or were they dupes in a series of bogus business deals?

Court records and sources close to the investigation confirm that Anthony Charles Prince is the man who approached Montgomery about training his son.

Those sources say Prince told Montgomery he could get him lucrative promotional and endorsement deals through his influential New York contacts. And thanks to Prince and his connections, there also would be fruitful business opportunities for Riddick and Alexander.

Prince was not a broker of endorsement deals, though. He was a career drug offender who spent more than nine years in prison for convictions in New York and Norfolk and is now headed back to a federal lockup after pleading guilty to a heroin charge in Norfolk.

Federal prosecutors allege that Riddick, Montgomery and Alexander headed a local money-laundering offshoot of a New York operation that funneled more than $2 million in counterfeit checks through Hampton Roads.

Prince is not charged in the check scam and is identified in indictments only as a co-conspirator. Such unnamed, uncharged people often are used as witnesses against named defendants. New York prosecutors declined to comment on the case.

All three Norfolk men claim to be innocent. A hearing is scheduled for July 11 in New York to set a trial date.

Riddick continues to train runners, among them, former three-time gold medalist Marion Jones. After several subpar seasons, Jones won the 100-meter competition in the U.S. championships in Indianapolis on Friday night, her first sprint title since 2002.

Riddick in January predicted his prize pupil would return to Olympic form. The next month, he was indicted in New York. And in order to obtain bail, he surrendered, among other things, his gold medal.

The current charges are the latest setback for Riddick and Montgomery, whose once-golden resumes have been tarnished in recent years.

Montgomery was a member of the winning American 4-by-100-meter relay team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Two years later, when he set the world record in the 100 meters in Paris, he claimed one of sports’ marquee standards, picking up $250,000 in prize money and bonuses in the process.

He and girlfriend Jones, the only woman to win five medals in a single Olympics, cut a dashing figure as the first couple of track and field. Her name is tattooed on his wrist. They had a son together.

But Montgomery saw his record fall last June.

(edit) By then, his relationship with Jones was over.

Then, at 8:30 a.m. April 28 (2006), he was arrested in Norfolk on the bank fraud charges.

When Riddick flashed across the finish line ahead of Soviet and East German runners in the 1976 Montreal Games, he flung his arms aloft in spontaneous exultation. He had just anchored the Americans’ winning 4-by-100-meter relay.

He turned in his gilded performance at the same Olympic Games that gave the world gymnastics sweetheart Nadia Comaneci and boxing icon Sugar Ray Leonard.

Riddick went on to star as a runner for the Pioneers Track Club in his native Philadelphia, at one point winning 14 of 15 races against world-class competition.

He later achieved success in Europe, where track and field is more popular than in the United States, and eventually began training world-class runners - Montgomery and Jones among them.

His troubles started in the late 1990s as track coach at Norfolk State, when he and others were investigated for travel-expense irregularities. His contract was not renewed in 1999, and he pleaded guilty to one count of forgery in May 2001. He received a suspended sentence and was ordered to pay $4,413.75 in restitution.

The architects of the check scam were a couple with the lyrical names of Douglas Shyne and Natasha Singh, according to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in New York. The indictment claims the ring consisted mostly of relatives and associates of Shyne and Singh.

The New Yorkers were indicted last year, and the three Hampton Roads men were named in indictments filed this year. Their link to the New Yorkers was a person identified in the indictment only as “co-conspirator 1,” or “CC-1.”

The Virginian-Pilot identified Prince as CC-1 through records filed in federal court and Virginia Beach and Norfolk circuit courts. CC-1 is described in the indictment as a friend of Shyne and an acquaintance of Montgomery. Shyne and Prince met while in prison in the 1990s, said several people familiar with the case.

Last Sept. 21, Virginia Beach police, acting on a tip from a Portsmouth drug buyer, raided a home on Kearsarge Court where Prince was living and seized 2 ounces of heroin, material to cut the drug, 7 pounds of marijuana, $59,000 in cash, two handguns and ammunition, according to a search warrant affidavit.

They also found bank records for an RBC Centura account that matched the number of an account in the name of Steve Riddick Sports Training Inc. According to the New York indictment, Riddick deposited a check for $375,000 into that account in April 2005. The check had been paid on a Wachovia Bank account in the name of Eastern Title Agency Inc. of Eatontown, N.J.

In March, Wachovia sued Riddick in Norfolk Circuit Court to collect almost $371,000 that was paid from the account before the check was determined to be fraudulent.

When Virginia Beach police arrested Prince, he offered to identify his drug supplier, “a major dealer in New York,” and “cooperate on a murder locally,” according to federal court documents.

The drug charge eventually was filed against Prince in federal court. In his plea agreement, he consented to cooperate with prosecutors “regarding any criminal activity as requested by the government.”

It is not known whether prosecutors will use Prince to testify against those who have been charged - including the ex-Olympians sources say he enticed into the venture.

But Anthony Prince is no stranger to making deals with the feds.

In 1992, Prince was convicted of cocaine possession and a weapons violation in New York state court and was released on probation.

Two years later, he was sentenced in Brooklyn federal court to 11 years and three months on a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. In 1996, a federal judge in Norfolk gave him 27 years for a cocaine conspiracy charge related to the Brooklyn case.

Once behind bars, Prince started naming names, according to federal court records. He provided information about several high-level drug dealers. His cooperation yielded a bonanza for the feds: 14 convictions, with two men receiving life sentences.

In June 1998, a Norfolk federal prosecutor filed a motion, based partly on Prince’s assistance in the drug cases, for a dramatic reduction in his sentence. He was granted supervised release from prison in November 2003.

By September 2004, Prince was living at the Kearsarge Court address, and his son, Anthony Michael Prince, was enrolled at First Colonial.

As a senior, Anthony started several football games at running back and defensive back. The elder Prince regularly attended his son’s games, asking coaches about his potential as a college player.

At about the same time, Prince apparently renewed his friendship with Shyne in New York - and he had started dabbling in drugs again. He was named in a seven-count indictment on drug and weapons charges in Norfolk federal court in January, stemming from the September 2005 Virginia Beach bust.

On Feb. 22, he pleaded guilty to one count of manufacturing and distributing heroin. He received a sentence at the low end of the guidelines for the case: six years. He still faces sentencing for a probation violation.

Anthony Michael Prince was arrested the same day as his father and faces cocaine possession and gun charges in Virginia Beach.

Members of the New York conspiracy produced phony checks in various ways, sometimes by inflating the amount and altering the name of the payee, on other occasions by producing counterfeit copies and also by stealing the identity of a check’s payee, according to the indictment.

As described by the indictment, the Virginia connection was established in order to launder money - but that part of the operation was a dismal failure.

In March 2005, the New York conspirators created a counterfeit check by inflating its value from $120 to $80,000 and naming Riddick as the payee, prosecutors say. On April 1, it was deposited into Riddick’s Navy Federal Credit Union account, but it bounced.

And so it went. A ccording to the indictment, i n April and May of 2005:

A check Shyne and Singh converted from $7.12 to $575,000 bounced. They had it sent by Federal Express to Vector Sports Management Inc. in Keller, Texas; Montgomery’s former agent, Charles Wells, works for Vector.

Neither Vector nor any of its employees were charged in the indictment. Wells did not respond to repeated phone calls or an e-mail.

A $450,000 counterfeit check made out to Riddick - delivered by FedEx , with Prince acting as courier - also bounced.

Two checks made out to Alexander, one deposited in a new business account he controlled, failed to clear. Their total value: $1 million. Court papers say that Alexander thought he was dealing with a person, known to him only as “Pete,” who wanted to buy his business.

A check Shyne and Singh had received from an auto dealership, and then inflated from $58,000 to $200,000, bounced. They changed the name of the payee from New York Cafe Lounge, a Philadelphia night club they operated, to TM & Associates, a North Carolina company controlled by Montgomery.

Only the $375,000 check made out to Riddick’s sports training group cleared. The indictment states that Riddick paid Montgomery $20,000 and an unidentified employee of Alexander’s $2,000 from that account.

In addition, $40,000 from the account was used to pay a leasing company for a Maserati sports car driven by Shyne and Singh, the indictment alleges.

Attorneys for Montgomery and Alexander say their clients were snookered by the New York operatives.

“This is a malicious prosecution to go after two Olympic gold medalists, using my client, who’s innocent,” said Michael Fineman, a New York attorney who represents Alexander.

“Efforts were made to use Mr. Montgomery because of his accomplishments and celebrity,” said Robert W. McFarland, Montgomery’s Norfolk attorney. “But he denies any wrongdoing in this matter and looks forward to being exonerated.”

Riddick, the only one of the three Norfolk men who would talk, said of the New Yorkers: "How would we know them? There was one person that they knew in New York who was down here, and I guess he found a way to get to us 'cause we was athletes.

“We did nothing wrong. I’m embarrassed that I got scammed.”

Staff writer Ed Miller contributed to this report.

Reach Bill Burke at (757) 446-2589 or bill.burke@pilotonline.com.