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Disbarment sought for pro athlete’s former agent

A former San Francisco deputy district attorney could be disbarred if the State Bar can prove he misappropriated more than $2 million from a professional basketball player for whom he acted as agent and attorney. GITHAIGA RAMSEY [#183386], 41, now an Oakland attorney, faces 22 charges of misconduct, including eight counts of moral turpitude, in two separate cases filed against him by the bar.

Ramsey denied all the charges in a response to the bar. He could not be reached for comment.

“This is somebody who has no moral fiber,” said bar prosecutor Esther Rogers. “He’ll go to any lengths he can to advance his interests before anyone else’s interests.”

According to Rogers, Ramsey bilked Jason Caffey, who played for the Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks before he retired, out of approximately $2.275 million over about two years. Ramsey owned a company called GDR Sports & Entertainment Management and, beginning in 1999, managed Caffey’s business and personal affairs, including handling his income and expenses. The two men shared a joint checking account and both had full authority to make withdrawals, write checks and transfer funds. The account was to be used solely for Caffey’s benefit.

According to the bar charges, Ramsey emptied the account between September 1999 and October 2001. He allegedly wrote checks that included payments for credit cards (one for $20,000), payment of federal and state taxes, $14,000 to buy a cashier’s check to pay for his jewelry, a mortgage payment and a $100,000 payment to Wells Fargo for a loan payment on his personal loan.

Six weeks after Caffey fired Ramsey, the account held $4.98.

Ramsey did not advise Caffey to seek independent legal advice about the joint checking account nor did he put the terms of the business relationship in writing, according to the bar charges, and thus acquired an ownership interest adverse to his client. In addition, the bar alleges that the many withdrawals from the bank account amounted to misappropriation. The bar also charged Ramsey with failing to deposit client funds in a trust account and with not maintaining records of the funds.

The charges also detail what the bar calls “a scheme to defraud Caffey” in which Ramsey bought the athlete’s Oakland home for less than the market value, using a real estate agent who shared the commission with him. Caffey bought the home in 1999 for $1,069,000 and although its value appreciated over the next 18 months, Ramsey bought it for $1,050,000. The going rate for real estate commissions on expensive homes in the area was 5 percent at the time, but the real estate agent charged 6 percent, a fee Caffey, as the seller, had to pay. The 6 percent commission was $63,000 rather than the $52,500 it would have been as a 5 percent commission.

In addition, the agent, who had previously done business with Ramsey, split his share of the commission 50-50 with Ramsey, who received $20,646.39.

The charges also outline Ramsey’s purchase of a home in Atlanta which Caffey intended to use as his primary residence. The bar alleges that Ramsey bought the house by making numerous misrepresentations on a loan application: he said the house would be his primary residence, claimed he was employed by Mason Tillman Associates of Atlanta (the company is a family business located in Oakland), said he received rental income from the Oakland home he purchased from Caffey and submitted what he said was a lease agreement with a woman who was his fiancĂ© at the time (in fact he owned the home and received no rental income), and listed his income and liabilities rather than Caffey’s. The bar charged Ramsey with seven counts of moral turpitude, including misappropriation, fraud and fabricating documents, and seven counts of entering into improper business transactions with a client.

Caffey sued Ramsey in federal court two years ago and some of the transactions, including the sale of the Oakland home, were resolved confidentially. Caffey, a 6-foot-8 forward, was drafted by the Bulls in 1995, traded to the Warriors in 1997 and then to the Bucks in 2000.

In an unrelated real estate matter in which Ramsey tried to sell another piece of property in the East Bay, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer found him in civil contempt twice for violating four court orders and ordered him to make restitution and pay attorney fees totaling $190,000.

The federal case led to a second set of disciplinary charges against Ramsey last month, following allegations that he twice improperly transferred a piece of property that was controlled by a receiver as part of federal litigation. The receiver instructed Ramsey not to interfere with his control of assets, according to the charges, yet Ramsey arranged for transfer of the property twice. Further, the federal court found that Ramsey was aware of three orders it issued, despite his claims he did not know about orders prohibiting transfer of the property.

The bar alleges that he tried to mislead a judge, violated Breyer’s contempt order by failing to pay the receiver more than $60,000, violated three orders that prohibited the transfer of the property and violated an order requiring him to pay $3,880. Breyer also ordered Ramsey to pay more than $98,000 in legal fees required to investigate the case; he has until April 8 to do so.

In his contempt order, Breyer made note of “the particularly reprehensible nature of (Ramsey’s) participation in the unlawful transfers and the cover-up that followed.”

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