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Olympic Sprinter Charged in Fraud Scheme

By DAVID B. CARUSO
The Associated Press
Saturday, April 29, 2006; 4:49 AM

NEW YORK -- In the latest in a series of bad turns for Olympic gold medalist Tim Montgomery, the star sprinter was arrested on charges he was connected to a multimillion-dollar bank fraud and money laundering scheme.

A grand jury indictment unsealed in New York accused Montgomery, his gold medalist track coach, Steven Riddick, and 12 other people of being involved in a conspiracy that deposited $5 million in stolen, altered or counterfeit checks over three years.

Montgomery, the former 100-meter world record holder, surrendered to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Norfolk, Va., at about 8:30 a.m. Friday and spent the afternoon in custody.

He was released on $10,000 bond Friday evening. His attorney, Robert McFarland, did not return a telephone message.

According to the indictment, some of the money was laundered through two businesses owned by a New York couple accused of being behind the scam.

Investigators accused Montgomery of being a lesser player in a scheme hatched by lead defendants Douglas Shyne and Natasha Singh.

Shyne and Singh are accused of setting up sham businesses to take checks stolen from banks and either alter them or make counterfeit copies. Most of the checks involved accounts at large companies that didn't immediately notice the cash missing, federal agents said.

Montgomery, who the indictment said knew the Shyne and Singh family through an acquaintance, deposited three bogus checks worth a total of $775,000, prosecutors said. He is accused of helping his coach, Riddick, deposit others worth at least $905,000. Prosecutors said Montgomery picked up a $20,000 fee for his role.

The case has been unfolding for months. A first round of defendants were indicted in August. Riddick, a 1976 medalist, was arrested in February while attending a track meet in Arkansas and has been free on bail since.

His attorney, Bryan H. Hoss, said his client is innocent and does not know Shyne or Singh.

"Steve Riddick is an Olympic gold medal athlete who trains world-class sprinters, and he has no association with this New York crew," Hoss said.

He declined to elaborate on how the sprinter and coach, both of Virginia, came to be mixed up in the case, but said of Riddick, "He did not know that these checks were fraudulent, and we expect that proof to come out at a trial."

The arrest is just the latest in a series of bad twists for Montgomery.

The 31-year-old runner was banned from track and field for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for doping based on evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of BALCO, the lab at the center of a steroid scandal in sports. Montgomery retired in December rather than wait out the suspension.

He never tested positive for drugs, and maintains he never knowingly took steroids or any other banned substances.

All of Montgomery's performances were wiped off the books as of March 31, 2001, including his world record dash of 9.78 seconds in 2002. Montgomery won his gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the 2000 Olympics.

Montgomery also separated from Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones, the mother of his child.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Martin Ficke said the fraud investigation, which was unrelated to the BALCO probe, began in 2005 after a bank alerted authorities about one of the suspicious checks.

Most of the other defendants in the case, a majority of whom are relatives of Singh or Shyne, have already been arrested and arraigned. Three people associated with the case have pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.

A lawyer for Singh did not return a telephone call, and a lawyer for Shyne declined to discuss the case.

© 2006 The Associated Press