It’s hardly uncommon for professional athletes to wonder what’s in the cards for them when their playing days draw to a close.
Unfortunately, police in Scottsdale, Ariz. say former NBA All-Star Chris Gatling knew exactly what was in the cards for him: a lucrative second career in online credit fraud.
Authorities whistled the 47-year-old Gatling for flagrant misuse of funds last week, charging him with fraud, forgery and aggregated identity theft stemming from what they claim was a massive online credit card scheme with victims nationwide. He was later released on his own recognizance.
Police say the 6-foot-10-inch power forward, who hung up his jersey in 2002 after 11 seasons with eight NBA teams, gathered credit card numbers through a Phoenix-based call center, then used them to make unauthorized purchases through bogus businesses.
Such head fakes and behind-the-back passes, while commonplace in the NBA, are illegal off the court.
Police caught wind of Gatling’s alleged sleight of hand through a Scottsdale fitness studio owner who fell victim to his alley-oops after meeting him through an online dating site. Authorities say Gatling convinced her to run what she believed to be his legitimate credit card transactions through her business in exchange for 10 percent of the dollar amounts and pay him the remaining 90 percent upfront.
When the charges were later denied as unauthorized, she was hit with $90,000 in chargebacks on her 10-percent cut, forcing her to close her fitness studio.
Here’s where it gets a little weirder. Police arrested Gatling while he was meeting with his probation officer under terms of his December 2013 conviction for theft and forgery. Gatling pleaded guilty and received four years probation for breaking into a key box at a Paradise Valley home, squatting there for a year, and eventually trying to rent it online, AirBnB style after the owners had moved to California but left the power on.
Police spokesman Kevin Watts told TMZ that additional charges could follow after authorities search the homes of Gatling and his business manager, who was also arrested and charged.
Presuming it really is Gatling’s house, of course. And that he’s not whistled for traveling.