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Former NBA player Kermit Washington was sentenced on Monday to six years in federal prison for convictions on charity fraud. He was also ordered to pay nearly $970,000 in restitution.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the western district of Missouri stated in a news release that the 66-year-old Washington “abused his fame and status to promote a charity scam by which he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars that he diverted to personal spending on lavish vacations, shopping sprees, and even plastic surgery for his girlfriend.”
Washington — best known for knocking out Houston’s Rudy Tomjanovich with a devastating punch in a 1977 game — told donors that the funds were going toward charitable work in Africa for starving and HIV-positive children.
In November 2017, Washington pleaded guilty in federal court in Kansas City, Mo., to making a false statement on his tax return and to aggravated identity theft.
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“His fraud scheme also victimized law-abiding taxpayers by stealing from the public treasury rather than paying taxes owed,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted.
Washington played for five NBA teams in the 1970s and 1980s. He was with the Los Angeles Lakers when he hit Tomjanovich in what has since been remembered as “The Punch.” Washington was suspended for 60 days after Tomjanovich was hospitalized for several injuries — a fractured skull, broken jaw, broken nose and leakage of spinal fluid. He eventually needed surgery to reconstruct his face.