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"I do control a very large part of their lives, and when you control someone's finances, that is their life," Peggy Fulford chirped brightly in the demo reel for her proposed reality show about her career as a financial advisor to star athletes. Yet those seemingly innocuous words would soon take on an ominous meaning when the depth of Fulford's crimes came to light.
Peggy Fulford was a woman who dripped in diamonds, who warmly called her friends "baby," and who insisted she just wanted to help athletes with their cash, free of charge. But she was also a thief, stealing millions of their money and using it to fund her extravagant lifestyle. So how did Fulford end up in that position?
Fulford, who went by many aliases ("King," "Barard," and "Simpson" were all last names she used at some point), was born in New Orleans and attended Spellman College. By the time football player Ricky Williams joined the NFL's New Orleans Saints in 1999, he met a Fulford, who wore Gucci, lived a luxury New Orleans lifestyle, and proclaimed to be a Harvard Law grad who made millions off Wall Street, according to the latest episode of CNBC's "American Greed," airing Monday, March 2 at 10/9c.
Williams had met Fulford when he hired an interior designer to ready his place for an episode of MTV's "Cribs"; she tagged along with the designer. The two became fast friends, soon considering each other "family," Williams' friend Chantel Cohen told "American Greed." Fulford threw a baby shower for Williams' then-wife, Kristin Barnes, and even drove her home from the hospital after birth.
It was around then that Fulford offered to help Williams with his finances. She said she would give him a monthly allowance and deposit the rest into a separate account. Taxes, investments, bills – she'd handle it all. And she'd do it free of charge, according to the show.
When Williams was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2002, Fulford bought a house in Fort Lauderdale with a new husband. The whole group partied hard in south Florida, Cohen told "American Greed," describing it as a far different nightlife scene than New Orleans. Williams had social anxiety, and the friendly, charming Fulford helped him have fun and make friends.
But Fulford wasn't just spending those nights out helping Williams — she was also making sports connections, many of whom started working with her company, King Management, and employing her as a financial advisor, according to the show.
Fulford used her charisma and friendships to collect a roster of athletes, promising them all "generational wealth." She'd give them an allowance while managing their accounts. Soon, Fulford became so well-known she had a reality show pitched with the working title, "The Peggy Show."
"Peggy is the owner and CEO of King Management Group. She is the business manager to 31 professional athletes who look to her to help controlling [sic] their financial lives. Money is usually the least of the partnership. Peggy has been known to furnish homes, buy engagement rings and deal with endless baby mama drama. Known as 'mama' to her clients, she works with some of the biggest names in sports," read the pitch, according to Sports Illustrated.
"I bring a lot of concern, I bring a lot of knowledge. … I'll be there long after [retirement] because I care, I really do," Fulford intoned in the sizzle reel seen on "American Greed." The show ultimately did not go forward.
By this point, Fulford had a massive mansion, tons of pricey, over-the-top cars, and carts of designer handbags. She was always wearing diamonds — “I'm talking 'Coming to America'-type diamond earrings," Bradford Cohen, Dennis Rodman's attorney, described to "American Greed" –– but her excessive show of wealth, and the fact she usually seemed to have more than the star athletes she represented, was starting to raise eyebrows, especially as she didn't charge for her services.
Attorney Chase Carlson told the show, "You don’t want your financial advisor having a bigger house than you or more cars than you. It just doesn’t add up."
Fulford's biggest client was Dennis Rodman, whom she befriended after he moved to Miami. Rodman had serious personal issues and a drinking problem at the time, and Fulford offered him emotional support and love. The two became close friends, and he enlisted her organizational services, too.
But red flags soon appeared. Bradford Cohen got a call informing him the electricity in Rodman's condo was turned off because the bill hadn't been paid. AJ Bright, Rodman's friend and personal assistant at the time, told "American Greed" he discovered a $5 million life insurance claim was about to lapse because payments weren't up to date.
"She was the master of 'the check is in the mail,'" Bright told the show.
Things were falling apart with Williams, too. In October 2012, Barnes got a letter from the IRS, which stated she and Williams owed $377,00, accusing the couple of taking false deductions to get a sizable return. The pair had never even see that tax return. Barnes soon called the bank that she believed held their investments and discovered they didn't even have an account there. Fulford had used a joint account in Florida to take $6 million from them through a series of wire transfers and cash withdrawals.
When Barnes confronted Fulford, who once presented herself as a close friend and confidante, she was promptly ghosted.
Barnes and Williams filed a civil suit against Fulford, which got the FBI involved. The case was even more complicated than they initially believed: They soon found she had lied about the Harvard degree and was constantly wiring money between different clients' accounts and her own. They also found proof she had stolen money from Lex Hilliard, another NFL star. In fact, FBI agent Jim Hawkins told "American Greed" a transaction involving the Hilliards was the moment they knew they had her.
Fulford had wired $200,000 from the Hilliards' account in Montana to a Texas-based company to close on a half-acre lot in Houston for a house in her name. It was damning evidence.
It became clear that she had also been stealing from Rodman. Unfortunately, wasn't until the FBI came to talk to him that Rodman understood just how severely she had betrayed him. Up to that point, he'd always defended his close friend, a woman he seemed to genuinely love. He was devastated to see the proof she had pilfered millions from him, according to "American Greed."
On Dec. 13, 2016, a federal grand jury in Houston indicted Fulford on multiple charges: mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and interstate transportation of stolen property. She was arrested in New Orleans and just in the knick of time — she had been about to rip off a local doctor. Authorities found a check in her home made out to her for $197,000 during the arrest. She had convinced the doctor to invest in a real estate project that didn't exist.
Fulford opted for a deal and pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. She was released on bond, and promptly went back to scamming. Ray Thomas, an engineer, testified during her sentencing hearing she talked him into investing $25,000 into a medical business. Just a day before this hearing, he had Googled her name, saw her mugshot, and contacted authorities, according to Sports Illustrated.
Fulford got the maximum sentence: 10 years in prison. She was also ordered to pay millions in restitution to Williams, Rodman, Hilliard, and another athlete, Travis Best.
To learn more about how Fulford's scam worked, see her reality TV reel, and hear Rodman's response to the sad saga, tune into "American Greed" on CNBC on Monday, March 2 at 10/9c.
You can stream episodes of "American Greed" here.
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