A Canadian marketing representative who allegedly had an agreement to represent Zion Williamson and purportedly paid his stepfather $400,000 while Williamson was enrolled at Duke says he was conned by someone acting like they were in the New Orleans Pelicans star’s inner circle.
In a court filing last week, Gina Ford’s attorneys included documents that they say showed Williamson’s stepfather, Lee Anderson, solicited and accepted a $400,000 payment in October 2018 from Slavko Duric, a Canadian marketing representative.
Duric told Sports Illustrated on Monday that he was contacted by someone in 2018, who was allegedly acting as a middle man for Williamson’s family and friend, James “Chubby” Wells. Duric said he was offered a percentage of Williamson’s future earnings in exchange for a $100,000 payment to Williamson’s family.
“I tried to do something I would characterize as outside the lines,” Duric told SI. “I allegedly was involved early. I was at the front of the line through a person who said he knew the family. Somebody who said he was [Williamson’s stepdad] Lee Anderson spoke with me. Someone who said they were Chubby Wells spoke with me a dozen times.”
Duric told SI that after receiving a signed marketing agreement from Williamson, along with a copy of Williamson’s South Carolina driver’s license, he sent the money to a family representative. He told SI that he never had a face-to-face meeting with anyone associated to Williamson.
“I got intoxicated by the opportunity,” Duric told SI.
Court documents showed that Duric raised about $400,000 from investors to fund the alleged scheme. After making the payment, according to Duric, the phone numbers he had for the people allegedly in Williamson’s inner circle were disconnected.
“I’ve been the victim of a con job by somebody acting like they were in the inner circle [with Williamson],” Duric said, according to SI. “I have never spoken to Zion Williamson, and anybody who purported themselves as being a member of Zion’s inner circle was an impostor.
“Honestly, I am in a fog. I do know that I’m out 100 grand.” Last week, Williamson’s attorney, Jeffrey Klein, disputed the authenticity of the documents that were attached to Ford’s filing in federal court in North Carolina.
“The alleged ‘agreements’ and driver’s license attached to these papers are fraudulent, and neither Mr. Williamson nor his family know these individuals nor had any dealings with them,” Klein said in a statement to ESPN. “We had previously alerted Ms. Ford’s lawyers to both this fact and that we had previously reported the documents to law enforcement as forgeries, but they chose to go ahead with another frivolous filing anyway. This is a desperate and irresponsible attempt to smear Mr. Williamson at the very time he has the opportunity to live his dream of playing professional basketball.”
Williamson’s attorneys have asked a federal judge in North Carolina to void his marketing agreement with Ford and Prime Sports Marketing, claiming it wasn’t valid because Ford wasn’t a registered agent in the state and the contract didn’t include a warning that was required by a state law designed to protect amateur athletes from unscrupulous agents.
Ford and Prime Sports Marketing sued Williamson and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) for $100 million in state court in Florida for Williamson’s alleged breaching of their marketing agreement and signing with CAA.
Last month, a state appeals court in Florida granted Williamson a full stay of a civil lawsuit brought by Ford, meaning he won’t have to answer discovery requests about whether his parents received improper benefits before or while he played one season at Duke, or at least not until after a federal case involving the same issues is resolved.