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Sixteen NFL Stars Claim Bank|Took Them to the Cleaners

FT. LAUDERDALE (CN) - Santonio Holmes, Brandon Meriweather, Santana Moss and 13 other NFL stars claim in court that Branch Banking and Trust Co. aided and abetted fraudulent transfers of more than $60 million from their accounts.

Jamaal Anderson et al. sued Branch Banking and Trust Co. as successor in interest to BankAtlantic, in Federal Court.

The athletes claim the bank aided and abetted numerous unauthorized transactions on their bank accounts, some of which were opened through forgery.

Many of the unauthorized transactions involved a casino project in Alabama called Center Stage aka County Crossing, according to the complaint.

"The casino style gaming, which was the primary and most lucrative aspect of the County Crossing project, was deemed illegal under Alabama [law] in July of 2012. As a result, the County Crossing project failed," the lawsuit states.

"BB&T also allowed numerous additional withdrawals from plaintiffs' accounts without plaintiff's knowledge and/or informed consent."

Thirteen of the 16 plaintiffs live in Florida.

The plaintiffs - Jamaal Anderson, Jacob Bell, Derrick Gaffney, Tavares Gooden, Frank Gore, Santonio Holmes, Greg Jones, Jevon Kearse, Kenard Lang, Ray Lewis, Brandon Meriweather, Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Lito Sheppard, Fred Taylor and Gerard Warren - want their money back and punitive damages for aiding and abetting fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and negligent supervision.

In the 35-page lawsuit, the athletes claim that their financial advisers at Pro Sports Financial opened accounts for them at BB&T, a business partner, which was in the scope of their agreement.

But they claim Pro Sports forged their signatures and used money from their legitimate accounts to open additional clandestine accounts, according to the complaint. To hide the chicanery, Pro Sports used its address on the illegitimate accounts, the NFL players say in the lawsuit.

Pro Sports is not named as a defendant.

"After the monies were deposited, BB&T allowed numerous unusual, suspicious and extraordinary withdrawals from accounts opened in the name of each plaintiff that were neither within the scope of the service identified in the Client Services Agreement nor authorized by the plaintiff in whose name the account was opened," the complaint states.

The NFL players say BB&T failed to verify their identity on the additional accounts, though it had identification information on record from their legitimate accounts.

They claim that BB&T opened the additional accounts "without following its own protocols ... to promote its own self-interest."

They claim the bank "substantially assisted Pro Sports... in diverting and using significant sums of money ... without authorization."

The lawsuit divides the plaintiffs into Groups A and B.

The Group A plaintiffs claim that money was "transferred out of an account opened in the name of [each plaintiff] for an illegitimate purpose and without his knowledge and/or informed consent."

Here are the Group A plaintiffs and the amounts they claim to have lost:

Gaffney - $2.3 million

Gore - $8.7 million

Kearse - $8 million

Lang - $1.6 million

Lewis - $3.8 million

Moss - $4.9 million

Portis - $3.1 million

Sheppard - $5 million

Taylor - $3 million

"The Group A improper withdrawals generally consisted of even dollar amounts in excess of $10,000, and on many occasions equaled or exceeded $100,000," the complaint states.

The Group B plaintiffs claim they had "power of attorney accounts," that "(t)he designated power of attorney for each Group B account was a Pro Sports employee," that BB&T opened some of the accounts "without having a power of attorney executed by the applicable Group B plaintiff as of the date of the opening of the account," and that "BB&T allowed Pro Sports employees to wire monies out of the Group B accounts for unauthorized or improper lending or business purposes."

Here are the Group B plaintiffs and the amounts they claim were "transferred out of an account opened in [their names] without [their] knowledge and/or informed consent:

Anderson - $5.8 million

Bell - $3.3 million

Gooden - $515,000

Holmes - $1.6 million

Jones - $2 million

Meriweather - $3.6 million

Warren - $3 million

The athletes want their money back, and punitive damages.

Their lead counsel is Matthew Brenner, with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, of Orlando.

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