The wild story behind the NBA’s most unlikely heist

Updated: November 19, 2019

7:00 AM ET

THE MOVING VAN from Sacramento chokes its way through Miami’s thick August air. It contains the objects of Jeff David’s life, all destined for the Davids’ new house in the affluent Pinecrest neighborhood. It is July 2018, and much of David’s family is on hand to help with the move. Jeff’s mother-in-law and her partner had arrived the previous night to help wrangle the kids while Jeff and his wife, Kate, led their family from their rental home in Coconut Grove.

Jeff, the former chief revenue officer of the Sacramento Kings, has taken the day off to move after landing a new role as CRO of the Miami Heat. His life is seemingly picture-perfect. He has an adoring wife of almost 10 years, three healthy children. And after two stints with the Kings spanning more than a decade — while helping secure hundreds of millions of dollars in arena sponsorships for the team — he has joined one of the NBA’s most respected organizations in an appealing, sun-drenched market.

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

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  • This agent, John Sommercamp, finds Kate and Jeff in the kitchen, where he tells them they might be the victims of fraud. He says he’s investigating a real estate title company. Jeff retreats to a back bedroom with Sommercamp, who wants Jeff relaxed and comfortable, a willing conversationalist. He does not believe Jeff is a victim. He strongly suspects he’s the perpetrator of a felony. The longer Jeff believes the inquiry is about the title company, the more likely it is that Sommercamp can extract the details he wants.

    Sommercamp has questions. A year earlier, Jeff had purchased an $8 million home in Hermosa Beach, 20 miles southwest of Los Angeles. Sommercamp asks Jeff how he found the money to buy it. Jeff explains that he’s part of an investor group. Sommercamp wants to know who these investors are. Jeff volunteers that Golden 1 and Kaiser Permanente, two major sponsors with the Kings, are partners. The agent gets more specific, probing the mechanics of Sacramento Sports Partners’ formation.

    But it’s when Sommercamp asks about how he obtained signatures from his partners in Sacramento that Jeff knows it’s time to suspend his cheery front.

    Jeff David knows he’s cornered.

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    BACK AT THE rental house in Coconut Grove hours later, Kate logs on to her personal banking app to discover a balance of $0.00. No alert, no explanation. Just zeros.

    Kate dials Bank of America, whose reps bounce her around the after-hours customer service labyrinth. She finally learns that there’s a freeze on the family account. Kate toggles over to the family’s secondary account at Wells Fargo. It, too, is frozen.

    “Why is all of our money gone?!” she screams at Jeff, who seems oddly sanguine for a man who suddenly doesn’t have the liquidity to order takeout. “Does this have anything to do with those FBI agents today?”

    Kate grasps for any theory, speculating that the agents might have been con artists posing as Feds to fleece the family. Jeff tells her that’s unlikely. He pulls out the business card Sommercamp handed him when Jeff walked the agent out the door — after telling Sommercamp that he’d be more comfortable continuing the conversation once he consulted an attorney.

    Jeff calls Sommercamp and puts him on speakerphone.

    “Our money is frozen,” Jeff says as Kate listens.

    “You’re probably not going to get that money back,” Sommercamp says. “You know what you did.”

    When Jeff hangs up, Kate is apoplectic.

    “What’s he talking about?! What did you do?! What’s going on?!

    Jeff sits on the bed next to his wife and places his hand on her knee.

    “I’m going to tell you, but I need you to hear me out,” he says. “I need you to listen to me.”

    The story Jeff David was about to tell his wife — of a yearslong fraud, of tens of millions of dollars stolen — was almost too absurd to believe.

    IN 2009, WITH the NBA in the headwinds of the global recession and rumors of a Kings relocation swirling, David was a man with growing concerns. Then Sacramento’s vice president of corporate partnerships, David feared he’d have to make ends meet as a private sports marketing consultant. Motivated by such prospects, he’d set up a private entity — Sacramento Sports Partners. In its nine years of existence, SSP never undertook any consultancy work. But it did ultimately prove useful.

    David left for a brief stint with the NBA league office before returning to Sacramento in 2011 as CRO. He was bright and self-motivated, with a keen understanding of the industry — not a man in need of micromanaging.