Schlichter will enter guilty plea in fraud scam

Published 1:12 am Friday, September 16, 2011

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Former Ohio State and NFL quarterback Art Schlichter pleaded guilty Thursday to state theft charges linked to a sports ticket-fraud scheme and apologized to a woman who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the plot.

In a deal worked out with state and federal prosecutors, Schlichter pleaded guilty to 12 theft counts and one corrupt activity count and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He also was ordered to pay more than $800,000 in restitution, although a prosecutor conceded victims were likely to never see the money.

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Schlichter will appear Friday in federal court, where he faces related charges of bank and wire fraud and filing a false tax return. Schlichter has indicated he’ll plead guilty to those charges, though no date for accepting the plea has been set.

Schlichter, 51, whose professional football career was derailed by a gambling addiction, apologized Thursday to the victims of the scheme, in which he charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for sports tickets he never delivered.

“I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you and all the other victims that are involved in this,” he said, his remarks at times aimed at Anita Barney of suburban Dublin, who sat in the courtroom directly behind him.

“My hope is that I can get myself together, rehab myself, do the right thing, get healthy so that I can make amends to everybody that I’ve hurt and harmed in any way,” he said. “It was never my intention setting out to hurt people.”

Schlichter said he was ashamed of his addiction.

Barney, the 69-year-old widow of a former Wendy’s Co. president, has been ruined by Schlichter, said her attorney, William Loveland. Her homes are being foreclosed and her only income is from Social Security, he said.

“He’s proven more than once he’s a predator,” Loveland said. “He’s shown no remorse for the situation he created.”

Judge Timothy Horton told Schlichter he was disappointed in his actions.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said afterward he was pleased with the convictions, while noting that many other victims remained in the wings after deciding not to file charges.

Schlichter’s attorney, Scott Weisman, said it’s taken his client hitting “rock bottom” to realize he has to change his ways. He said that one day the money will be paid back.

“Art is remorseful. Art wants to turn his life around. He wants to give back,” Weisman said.

Federal investigators say Schlichter used the money he took promising Ohio State and NFL tickets and spent it on personal expenses, gambling and to repay older debts.

Schlichter played at Ohio State between 1978 and 1981 and for the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills.