Former Bears wide receiver Willie Gault was charged in a federal complaint Tuesday claiming he defrauded an investor to pump up the stock of a medical device company.
The SEC alleges Gault, now 51, was simply a figurehead co-CEO alongside former Hollywood executive J. Rowland Perkins for Heart Tronics, a publicly traded company based in California.
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The federal complaint claims Gault and Perkins "rarely questioned" a California-based attorney who controlled most of the company's business activities, which in the end profited nearly $8 million from secret trades the attorney orchestrated.
Mitchell J. Stein, the attorney who handled the business, and Gault defrauded one investor into investing a substantial amount of money into Heart Tronics with the intention that his money would fund the company's operations, according to the complaint. Stein and Gault took the investors proceeds for personal use, including the purchase of Heart Tronics stock under Gault's personal brokerage account "Catch 83" to create a false appearance of volume and demand for the stock, according to the SEC.
"Stein took advantage of Gault's celebrity to further prop up the image of Heart Tronics as a successful enterprise," said Stephen L. Cohen, associate director in the SEC's Division of Enforcement.
Heart Tronics was known as "Signalife" during most of the time the scheme was running from December 2005 to December 2008, according to the SEC.
The common stock was formerly listed on the American Stock Exchange but is now quoted on the OTC Link under the symbol HRTT.PK.
Gault was drafted by the Bears in 1983 after his time at the University of Tennessee, where he was named an All-American wide receiver his senior year. Gault was also part of a world record-setting 4x100 relay team.
Gault made news earlier this month when authorities found his Super Bowl XX ring at a downtown Los Angeles jewelry store. The 1985 Super Bowl ring was stolen during a Nov. 8 home burglary along with a wedding ring and five watches. The other jewelry was also recovered at the store, and the owner was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property.