Former Philadelphia Eagles player Merrill Robertson Jr. has been sentenced for defrauding investors, including former coaches, alumni and employees of schools he had attended, out of more than $10 million.

The criminal charges against Robertson stem from fraudulent conduct alleged in a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016.

According to the complaint, from 2010 to 2016, Robertson and Sherman C. Vaughn Jr. used their company, Cavalier Union Investments LLC, to fraudulently induce more than 60 investors to invest more than $10 million in Cavalier investments. The men operated a Ponzi-like scheme using money from new investors to pay back old investors and finance their luxurious personal lifestyles.

Robertson and Vaughn, the complaint said, targeted unsophisticated senior citizens and former football coaches, donors, alumni and employees of schools Robertson had attended and induced them to buy Cavalier's promissory notes that allegedly paid a fixed rate of return between 10% and 20% annually.

Robertson played football for Fork Union Military Academy and he was a star player at the University of Virginia.

The SEC complaint said the men portrayed themselves as experienced investment experts and Cavalier as a sophisticated company with various divisions, investment funds and investment advisors, falsely claiming that Cavalier used investor money to invest in a broad range of business ventures, such as restaurants, real estate, alternative energy and assisted living facilities. They also claimed that Cavalier's investment portfolio was “secured by tangible assets that yield higher returns than investments while providing safety and security for our investors,” the SEC alleged.

But Cavalier was functionally insolvent shortly after it was formed and it relied on cash from investors to stay afloat and pay investors who requested their money back, the complaint said, pointing out that the few investments the company made were in restaurants that failed, and the men knew Cavalier could not pay all its obligations.

The complaint also alleged that Cavalier continued soliciting and collecting more money from unsuspecting investors, even though the firm was bouncing checks, the restaurants had all closed and Cavalier could not make required interest payments to its largest investor. 

Robertson and Vaughn treated Cavalier like their personal piggy bank, the complaint said. They stole nearly $6 million in investor money and used it for themselves on things like cars, family vacations, spa visits, luxury goods, educational expenses for family members, and a luxury suite at a football stadium.

A jury convicted Robertson on August 24, 2017. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated Robertson's conviction and remanded the case to the district court. He will be sentenced for a second time on January 3, 2020.

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