(CN) - Former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders, the only man to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series, is among those accused of defrauding investors out of $1.8 million by getting them to back a publication they believed would tout promising high school athletes to college recruiters.
According to the plaintiffs in a state court action filed in Texas, Sanders, now a commenter for the NFL Network, co-defendant Damien Wallace and others claimed the publication, PrimeTimePlayer Pages, would be sent to more than 500 colleges and universities to promote featured student-athletes.
Each of the plaintiffs was offered an opportunity to invest in the venture, and then to act as independent representatives for the product. Since then, however, plaintiffs have not been able to find a single school that actually received the publication, the complaint said.
In one instance, at an event held in September 2009, the promoters solicited students and parents to sign up for inclusion in a special basketball edition of PrimeTimePlayer Pages. Sanders was the keynote speaker at the event, and afterward attendees were told they could sign up for "a special reduced price of $39.99 rather than the usual price of $99."
According to the plaintiffs, the parents of about 50 student-athletes paid for their inclusion in the book. But plaintiff Lawrence Smith said he discovered four months later, in February 2010, that the special basketball edition of the book had never even been published.
"Shortly after that, my clients discovered that the original PrimeTimePlayers Pages (football issue) had [also] not been distributed to the colleges or the parents of the student-athletes," Smith said.
"Further, false representations were made to the corporate community to sell advertisement under the guise of student athlete scholarships, making promises of distributions to over 15,000 individuals, quarter page ads, and student athlete scholarship certificates bearing company logos," he said.
Smith said he apprised Sanders of the situation via a confidential package, and subsequently received a call from the former player, who said he was unaware of the situation and the complaints that had been received as a result, and that he would "take care of it" and get back to him.
Smith said he never heard from Sanders again. However, he and other investors and representatives continue to discover "multiple misrepresentations" made by the defendants, who in addition to Sanders and Wallace include PrimeTimePlayer.com; Sports Groove Online Inc.; Sports Groove LLC, dba Pennicle Commercial Property Group; PTP Red Inc.; Charity Church; and Twenty-One LLC.
Smith and co-plaintiffs Derwin and June Williams, William Reed, Wes Cross, Albert Williams and Greg Tolver seek multiple damages for mental anguish, and exemplary damages on claims of false and deceptive business practices, fraud and negligence.
They are represented by Don Stewart of Arlington, Texas.