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Would-Be Dillon Stadium Developers Indicted

Former Developers of Hartford's Dillon Stadium Indicted

HARTFORD — James C. Duckett Jr. and Mitchell Anderson, who sold Hartford officials on an ambitious but ill-fated plan to redevelop Dillon Stadium, were arrested Thursday on federal charges alleging the pair pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in a conspiracy to defraud the city and subcontractors.

Anderson, 51, was arrested at his home in Avon and released on a $100,000 non-surety bond after pleading not guilty. Duckett, 44, of Somers, was taken into custody by FBI agents in Las Vegas, where he has unrelated business interests. He is expected to appear in federal court in Las Vegas on Friday.

The arrests come 8 1/2 months after the Courant first reported on Duckett's past legal troubles, including revelations that he had a felony embezzlement conviction and a string of unpaid civil judgments in multiple states. The paper also reported that Premier Sports Management Group, Anderson's company, submitted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills for work that was never done, in what Hartford officials now allege was a scheme to "steal city funds."

Premier had a contract with the city to oversee a $12 million redevelopment of Dillon. But in March 2015, Anderson joined forces with Duckett's Black Diamond Consulting Group, and the pair made a new pitch to Hartford officials, offering to privately finance a stadium costing as much as $50 million if the city paid about $2 million to clear the site.

City development officials embraced the plan, and paid Premier Sports about $1.6 million to cover subcontractor invoices. But The Courant reported that more than $1 million of that money never made it to the companies. The city had drafted another check to Premier for $315,000 – also for work allegedly never performed – but that check was withdrawn soon after The Courant's first story.

A subsequent story revealed that hundreds of thousands of dollars was transferred from Premier's bank account to Duckett, Anderson or companies they controlled, even as contractors and employees went unpaid.

In a 26-count indictment, federal authorities allege that in early 2015, Duckett and Anderson hatched a conspiracy "to enrich themselves by defrauding the City of Hartford and sub-contractors of PSMG … by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises." Money intended for those subcontractors, the indictment alleges, was instead diverted through "cash withdrawals, payments for personal credit cards, and payments to vendors for unrelated projects."

The indictment also accuses Duckett of submitting a "false and fictitious letter" from a Florida firm called Invest Technical Services that claimed Black Diamond had secured $440 million to finance development projects, as well as a document "falsely" claiming to be from Barclays bank confirming access to the money.

The signer of the Invest Technical Services letter, Derek Edwards, is listed as "Co-conspirator #1" in the indictment. However in an interview with The Courant in October, Edwards insisted the letter was legitimate and the financing for the stadium was both real and imminent.

"Yes, I do have $440 million that I am a beneficiary of and I have the capacity to put that into the project," Edwards said. "I have the capacity to do the transaction with Black Diamond, I have the interest to do such and we're at the final stage of making the final commitment to do such."

Duckett and Anderson both face charges of wire fraud, illegal monetary transactions and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Anderson also faces charges of mail fraud.

The fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years each, while the monetary transaction charges carry a maximum 10-year sentence.

In addition to money from the city, two private investors provided a total of $400,000 to take an ownership stake in Hartford City FC, the newly formed professional soccer team Duckett and Anderson said would play at the stadium, and inside the XL Center as part of the Major Arena Soccer League. As the deal was falling apart, the investors relinquished their claim on the money, in hopes of salvaging the team under new ownership. But the league dropped Hartford City FC and no games were ever played.

The city ultimately canceled its contract with Premier Sports, and both the project manager and city Development Director Thomas Deller lost their jobs.

The city and an architecture firm in Farmington also filed civil suits against Duckett, Anderson and their companies. The city's suit alleges Premier submitted more than $700,000 in bogus invoices as part of a conspiracy to defraud the city. The suit asks for damages. Quisenberry Arcari, the project's architect, alleges it is owed about $400,000 — including about $320,000 that Premier allegedly collected from the city but failed to pass on to the firm.

In the past, Duckett and Anderson have each said that the other controlled Premier Sports' financial decisions, including what invoices were submitted to the city and what withdrawals were made from Premier's bank accounts. Duckett did not immediately respond to text messages Thursday.

Anderson declined comment at U.S. District Court in New Haven, but his court-appointed lawyer, Michael Dolan, said: "I'm anxious to review the evidence and provide a vigorous defense."

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he was "not at all surprised" by the indictment.

"I welcome it," he said Thursday. "These individuals defrauded the city of Hartford and the taxpayers of Hartford and I hope they are brought to justice as they deserve."

The city has ramped up its review of potential developers, Bronin said.

"Clearly the city should never have been doing business with them," he said. "The city failed under the last administration to do even basic due diligence before entering into a costly arrangement with criminals. We would not ever engage in a transaction of that magnitude without doing a whole lot more careful diligence."

The case was investigated by Hartford police and IRS and FBI agents attached to the Connecticut Public Corruption Task Force and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Karwan and Douglas Morabito.

Courant reporter Edmund H. Mahony contributed to this story.

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