Judge awards Harrellson more than $1M in suit against former UK staffer
LEXINGTON, Ky. - A judge has ruled in favor of a former UK basketball player who sued a man accused of stealing money from him.
Judge Pamela Goodwine issued the ruling in favor of Josh Harrellson on Monday in Fayette Circuit Court. Harrellson sued Leon Smith, a former staff member of the University of Kentucky Men's Basketball team, asking for damages. According to court documents, Harrellson was early in his career with the NBA when he says Smith contacted him in July 2011. Harrellson says Smith offered him financial services. Harrellson testified that he trusted Smith 110% to manage and invest his income.
Harrellson told the court that in 2013 and 2014, Smith quit responding to Harrellson's calls, text, and emails. In the summer of 2014, Harrellson says another business partner of Smith contacted him advising him that Smith had been taking money. In early 2015, an IRS agent contacted Harrellson and said he learned Smith had been taking monies from Harrellson over the course of two years. According to the agent, Smith had established a Post Office Mail Box in Harrellson's name and had checks mailed to that box without his knowledge.
Harrellson says he also learned that Smith had forged his name on pay checks and never deposited that money in Harrellson's accounts.
In all, the court determined Smith stole $170,884.69. Judge Goodwine ordered Smith to repay that amount to Harrellson. Also, the judge awarded Harrellson $1,025,308.14 in punitive damages.
A federal grand jury indicted Smith back in May. Smith faces 14 charges including money laundering and identity theft. According to the indictment, Smith defrauded more than $1.2 million from pro athletes through his companies that provide financial services.
Smith served as director of men's basketball at UK under Tubby Smith. He was also a former assistant athletics director at UK.