Officers of Cleveland-Area Firm Sentenced for NBA Players Union Fraud, Cover-Up
Joseph Lombardo may not have stolen funds, but it was the attempt that counted. Last Tuesday, June 10, Lombardo, founder and managing director of the Independence, Ohio-based Prim Capital Corp., was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 18 months in prison for forging signatures in an attempt to renew a multi-year benefits management contract with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) worth more than $3 million. Almost three weeks earlier, on May 21, chief compliance officer for the firm, Carolyn Kaufman, was sentenced to six months of home confinement, three years of probation, and 500 hours of community service, and fined $25,000, for helping to conceal the fraud. Lombardo pled guilty in November; Kaufman had been found guilty last December following a trial. The actions follow probes by the Labor Department and the Justice Department.
Union Corruption Update has reported on this case a number of times. About three years ago, Lombardo, founder and managing director of Prim Capital, found himself drawn into a bitter rift between his friend, NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter, and then-association president and star point guard Derek Fisher. Fearful the players union would not renew its servicing contract with Prim, Lombardo rubber-stamped the signatures of deceased NBPA General Counsel Gary Hall and another union employee to create the appearance of a renewal. The contract would have been good for five years at $602,000 a year.
Fisher and his allies, meanwhile, had hired a New York law firm to conduct a full audit on mismanagement under Hunter. That triggered an investigation by the Labor Department and eventually the Justice Department. Though Kaufman testified before a grand jury that neither she nor Lombardo had forged any signatures, Lombardo, unaware he was being secretly taped, could be heard coaching Kaufman how to avoid questions on the subject. Each eventually was arrested and indicted in the spring of 2013.