TRENTON — For the past two weeks, the FBI and federal prosecutors have buried former University of Connecticut basketball star Tate George with mountains of bank records and other evidence in an attempt to prove that he's a cunning swindler who stole $2 million from investors and friends through a his real estate investment firm.
But through it all, one man has supported George every day.
As his close friend and confidante, Enrique Riley has been at George's side daily at his federal trial on fraud charges. Riley, who helped teach George about real estate and worked for him as a paid consultant, insists that George is not guilty.
"I knew from Day One that Tate was innocent," Riley said. "They're trying to use the bank records to tell the story, but the bank records can't tell the whole story."
Riley testified Monday and caused a stir in the courtroom when he said that George's secretary might have created false financial documents. The prosecutor told the jury there was "no basis" for the assertion, and Riley eventually acknowledged that the secretary would have made the documents only if George had told her to do so.
Riley, a deacon at a Brooklyn church, said he searched for mines and booby traps in Vietnam while serving in the Army. During testimony, he said he was working as a researcher for a law firm when he met Tate in 2000, and has worked closely with Tate since 2007.
It's apparent that he's a top adviser to George during the trial, in addition to the federal public defenders who have been assigned to the case. Public defenders are appointed only when the defendant doesn't have enough money to pay for private attorneys.
A constant presence in the courtroom, Riley arrives with George in the morning, speaks with him during breaks in testimony and goes out to lunch with him. At the end of testimony one day last week, George and Riley were seen conferring for an extended period in the courthouse parking lot before they climbed into a pickup truck, with George driving and Riley in the front passenger seat.
"I work with him 24/7," Riley said.
Riley even made his way into a pilot video for a proposed Tate George reality show, which can still be seen on YouTube. In the video, George talks while Riley is shown smiling.
"My man Riley," George says. "What more can I say? I don't go anywhere without him. He's my spiritual guide, my voice, and he keeps me grounded. Everyone, everyone needs a Riley."
When the FBI came to arrest George in New Jersey two years ago, charging that his investment firm was really a Ponzi scheme, George was in California. It was Riley who picked George up at the airport the next day and brought him to the FBI office in Newark to turn himself in.
Outside the courtroom, Riley said he could not criticize the FBI team that has been watching the testimony closely from the wooden benches in the fifth-floor courtroom.
"You can't blame these guys," Riley said. "They do what the U.S. attorney tells them to do."
Riley, himself, met with FBI agents when they were building their case against George.
When asked why he met with the FBI, Riley said he had received a subpoena, adding, "I have nothing to hide."
George is best known in Connecticut for his 1990 clutch shot he made while playing basketball at UConn. In a game against Clemson, he caught a long inbounds pass, spun around in one motion and sank a buzzer-beater in the NCAA playoffs. He went on to play professionally with the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.
The FBI, though, has a different view of Tate George.
The lead agent, Gregory Yankow, said in an affidavit that George was operating "in Ponzi-scheme fashion" from 2005 through March 2011, when "his supposed real estate development business" actually "had virtually no business during this time."
Yankow, who has been attending the trial daily, said in the affidavit that George "made numerous materially false and misleading statements to investors" at a time when his real estate business "had virtually no income-generating operations at all."
The trial resumes Wednesday when George is expected to take the stand in his own defense.Copyright © 2015, CT Now