Feds Say Ex-NBA Star Tipped Off Drug Kingpin

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Former NBA player Jerome “Pooh” Richardson passed along a tip from a police officer friend that federal agents were about to raid the home his half-sister shared with a drug kingpin, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Richardson, 43, is not charged in the indictment, which accuses only the Philadelphia detective with criminal wrongdoing. The officer, Rickie Durham, is a longtime friend of Richardson’s who received a car, event tickets and other expensive gifts from the athlete over the years, the document said.

Prosecutors declined to say whether Richardson is cooperating or whether he broke the law in relaying the tip.

His alleged 3 a.m. phone call to Asya Richardson and drug kingpin Alton “Ace Capone” Coles prompted Coles to make a flurry of calls hours ahead of the huge two-state raid on Aug. 10, 2005. Police nonetheless recovered more than $500,000 in cash, 10 guns and 450 grams of cocaine in searches of the couple’s Mullica Hill, N.J., home and other properties linked to Coles’ group.

The indictment refers to Richardson as “J.R. Jr.” FBI spokesman Frank Burton Jr. confirmed the reference is to Richardson. It was not clear if Richardson had a lawyer representing him in the case, and a telephone listing for him could not be determined Wednesday.

Durham, also 43, was one of about 250 officers who gathered at 2:30 a.m. that morning in 2005 for the takedown, preparing to search 23 properties and 11 vehicles in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Months earlier, Durham had called Richardson, a Philadelphia native who lived in Los Angeles, to report that half-sister Asya Richardson was dating a drug dealer. In the Aug. 10 call, he allegedly told his friend, “We’re going to take her down too.”

Durham called on his FBI-issued cell phone, authorities said. After a grand jury probe was under way, he told authorities he had been trying to aid the investigation by getting Asya Richardson’s phone number, the indictment said.

Coles was convicted last year of running a violent drug enterprise and is serving a life sentence. Asya Richardson was convicted of money laundering but remains free pending her sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bresnick said that Durham’s tip could have cost officers their lives.

“It could have been tragic,” he said.

He will seek to detain Durham at a hearing Thursday, the same day Durham’s lawyer expects him to be terminated from the Philadelphia Police Department.

“He’s not the corrupt cop they make him out to be,” defense lawyer Fortunato N. Perri Jr. said after his client’s brief initial appearance before a judge. Durham plans to fight the charges, he said.

Richardson, a first-round draft choice out of UCLA in 1989, spent more than a decade in the NBA, playing for Minnesota, Indiana and the Los Angeles Clippers.

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