A former top executive of the Sacramento Kings is suspected of siphoning off $13.4 million from two of the team’s top sponsors and using the funds to purchase beachfront property in Southern California, sources have told The Sacramento Bee.
The FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating Jeffrey R. David, 44, the former chief revenue officer for the Kings who currently holds the same position with the NBA’s Miami Heat, for what sources say was a sophisticated money-laundering scheme that allegedly diverted $9 million from the Golden 1 Credit Union and another $4.4 million from Kaiser Permanente Foundation.
David, whose position with the Kings was eliminated on June 1 and who joined the Miami Heat as chief revenue officer in July, did not respond to a message seeking comment that was left on his cellphone voice mail early Thursday. No criminal charges have been filed in the case, which was referred to federal investigators by the Kings a week ago.
Federal officials would not comment on the matter, but the Kings issued a statement Thursday to The Bee confirming the investigation.
“Last week, we alerted federal law enforcement to suspicious financial transactions involving a former Kings employee, Jeff David,” the team said. “That investigation is underway and on Monday, U.S. Department of Justice authorities began the formal process of recovering and seizing the properties involved in the investigation.
“We appreciate the swift action on behalf of the officials at the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California McGregor Scott as they work to complete this investigation and we will take all appropriate action once it is complete.”
Late Thursday, attorneys for David – Sacramento laywer Mark Reichel and the Miami-based firm of Seitles & Litwin – confirmed he is working with law enforcement “and will continue to do so,” but declined to comment further.
Kings attorney William Portanova confirmed the team went to federal officials with findings of an internal investigation and noted that because of the team’s swift actions, all assets are being recovered with no loss to the team or the companies.
“This was an amazing response by the FBI and the U.S. attorney,” Portanova said. “It’s rare to be able to identify the culprit and return the diverted assets as quickly as the FBI has.”
The team, owned by Vivek Ranadivé and minority investors who include many prominent Sacramento business leaders, was scheduled to brief the ownership group on the investigation Friday morning.
Two sources, internal Kings documents obtained by The Bee and documents filed in federal court in Sacramento provide an outline of the investigation, which began Aug. 14 after a Kings employee reviewing computer files found a folder labeled “Turbo Tax” that raised suspicions.
The investigation now focuses on money meant to go to the Kings as part of multi-year advertising contracts that Golden 1 and Kaiser Permanente signed with the team, including the credit union’s 20-year, $120 million naming rights deal for Golden 1 Center signed in 2015, according to two sources familiar with the probe.
David, a former NBA executive and onetime rising star in the Kings organization, was in charge at the time of negotiating advertising contracts and corporate partnerships.
Authorities suspect the funds were diverted into an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners LLC, a company created in 2015 that named David as manager and listed an address that went to a United Parcel Service mailbox drop a mile from Sleep Train Arena, where the Kings played before the Golden 1 Center opened.
David allegedly opened a Sacramento bank account for the company he created, then approached Golden 1 officials in 2016 with a proposal that the credit union make an advanced payment on the agreement in exchange for lower payments later in the duration of the 20-year contract, according to sources and documents filed in federal court in Sacramento on Sunday.
Those court documents do not name David or any of the companies allegedly involved, instead referring to “Person A” and firms identified only as “Company A, B and C,” but both sources confirm the filing refers to David, the Kings, Golden 1 and Kaiser Permanente Foundation.
The documents and sources show Golden 1 agreed to make the early payment and, following directions on an invoice it had received, sent $9 million into a bank account created for Sacramento Sports Partners.
“Golden 1 Credit Union is aware that the federal government has initiated an investigation into whether the Sacramento Kings have been the victim of a financial fraud, perpetrated by a former Kings representative,” said Golden 1 Credit Union President and CEO Donna Bland in a statement. “We are cooperating with federal law enforcement agencies in their ongoing investigation and working closely with the Kings organization.”
Bland, through a spokesman, later declined an interview request to elaborate on the statement. Golden 1 officials referred other queries to U.S. Attorney’s officials. Lauren Horwood, a U.S. Attorney’s spokeswoman in Sacramento, declined comment Thursday.
A similar effort was used to collect $4.4 million from Kaiser Permanente Foundation that was meant to go to the Kings and sent to the same bank account in 2015, sources and internal Kings documents say.
In a brief statement Thursday afternoon, Kaiser officials said they were recently informed of the government’s probe and is cooperating fully with FBI and U.S. Attorney’s investigators, adding, “We hope this matter is fully resolved for the Kings.”
The next month, in July 2016, Sacramento Sports Partners purchased a beachfront Hermosa Beach home for $8 million, according to sources and online property records.
Three months after the purchase, Sacramento Sports Partners hired a contractor to remodel the property, court papers say, and sources say $1 million went into the remodel on the home. The property was later listed for sale with an asking price of $12.5 million, sources say.
Sacramento Sports Partners purchased another property, a Manhattan Beach condominium, for $3.4 million in 2017, according to sources and court and Kings documents.
Prosecutors filed forfeiture documents in federal court in Sacramento on Sunday seeking to halt the transfer or sale of either property.
The documents say the properties were purchased with proceeds stemming from money laundering and racketeering, but do not name David or any of the companies allegedly involved. The documents also say there were attempts to purchase other properties.
“Person A has attempted to purchase additional real estate using the funds stolen from Company B and Company C,” the court documents state. “In 2017, Person A made offers on real estate in Lake Tahoe and Los Angeles, providing the LLC’s bank statements as ‘Proof of Funds’ that Person A can afford to purchase the properties.”
Internal Kings documents say emails recovered in the team’s probe include communications between David and a bank regarding the purchase of a $2.5 million to $3 million jet and that other computer files left behind by David set off alarms.
A Kings employee “came across a folder labeled ‘Turbo Tax,’” the team documents say. “The folder listed four documents that contained information related to Depreciation and Amortization schedules for ‘Sacramento Sports Partners LLC.’”
The Kings employee “did not recognize the entity and questioned why a business-related entity would have depreciation schedules related to two residences, furniture and a golf cart,” the documents say.
David spent two stints working with the Kings, earning plaudits for his work and charitable efforts for several years.
His LinkedIn.com profile says he went to school at Loyola Marymount University and later earned an MBA in finance and marketing from Pepperdine Graziado Business School, then worked in 2005 as senior director of marketing and promotions for the Columbus Crew, a Major League Soccer franchise in Ohio.
In December 2006, while the Kings were still owned by the Maloof family, he came to Sacramento as vice president of corporate partnerships for the team and remained until May 2010.
He left the team and worked for the NBA’s league office in 2010 for a year as an executive in its global marketing partnerships group, according to his LinkedIn account and an archived Internet biography from the NBA.
He returned to the Kings in August 2011 as chief revenue officer after then-NBA Commissioner David Stern dispatched league executive Chris Granger to Sacramento to assist the team with ticket sales and other business ventures. Granger later served as team president until 2017 and retained David after the Maloofs sold the team to the Ranadivé group in 2013.
In 2012, David was named to the Sacramento Business Journal’s “40 under 40” list and lauded for heading up the team’s “Project Assist” initiative to raise $550,000 for area schools and nonprofits.
Information about David’s past with the Kings is no longer available on the team website, but a 2016 archived version of the Kings.com page says David’s duties included “overseeing the traditional revenue operations of the NBA franchise; including Ticket Sales/Service, Sponsorship Sales/Service, and Suites Sales/Service.”
He was named chief revenue officer for the Miami Heat in July, and an NBA news release on his hiring praised his achievements with the Kings.
“In 2012, former Commissioner David Stern appointed him to serve as the Kings’ Chief Revenue Officer,” the July 9 release states. “David led the organization through a new ownership transition and the development of Sacramento’s new downtown arena.
“Among his many career highlights, David negotiated the $120 million landmark naming rights deal with Golden 1 Credit Union. As Kings CRO, David also developed and managed sales and marketing strategies for the Kings’ parent company, which included a robust real estate portfolio of sports/entertainment venues, retail, office, hotel and residential projects.”
In response to a query from The Bee Thursday, the Heat issued a statement confirming that the team had been told of the probe.
“We are aware of the investigation of Jeff David, which focuses on events that took place prior to his joining our team,” the Heat statement said. “We are fully cooperating with the authorities. Jeff David is on leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.”
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league office also was aware of the matter.
“We are aware of the situation involving Jeff David and have been in contact with the Kings and Heat organizations as well as law enforcement,” Bass said in an email to The Bee. “We will continue to monitor for any developments.”