Kirk Wright Took the Coward’s Out

Bita Honarvar / AJC

Cowards usually show themselves. In the end, after they’ve run and tried to hide, they reveal the full measure of their meekness.

Kirk Wright was a coward and a criminal. In what order is of no consequence. Last Wednesday, the 37-year-old Harvard-trained Atlanta-based hedge fund manager was convicted of 47 counts of mail and securities fraud and money laundering, part of a sham in which he bilked more than $150 million from thousands of clients – including several NFL players – to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Three days later, Wright hung himself in his jail cell.

One of the seven players (who collectively lost more than $20 million), former Denver Bronco Steve Atwater, who lost $2.7 mill himself, may have summed it up best: “It’s a tragic deal all around.”

The scam first came to light two years ago when it was discovered that Wright was using lies and fraudulent documents to fool his clients (which included his own family members) that their investments were increasing in value. In truth, the only things rising were Wright’s assets and lifestyle.

There were $50,000 watches, $200,000 cars and a wedding that was tallied at half-a-mil. There were luxury homes in and around Atlanta.

Wright tried to run once his scam was blown. When cops arrested him in May 2006, he was sipping cocktails at the Ritz Carlton in Miami Beach, where he was staying under an alias at a Miami hotel. In his room, the cops found $30,000 in cash, along with several fake IDs and prepaid cell phones. While a fugitive, he bought a Mercedes and a Florida condo.

And he maintained his innocence – blaming mere mismanagement! – until the end. Scheduled to be sentenced in late August, Wright faced a potential $16 million fine and 710 years in prison.

Wright wasn’t the first criminal to scam investors, including athletes. No doubt he won’t be the last, either. As long as there are young men and money, there will be charlatans looking for their share – or all of it.

Thankfully, more safeguards are in place these days. Sports leagues and players’ unions are all hosting seminars on financial management and providing information to help young athletes make the right choices with their money.

Sometimes they listen. Sometimes they hire guys like Kirk Wright.

And unfortunately, there will always be another Wright – young, smart, smooth and, like many young athletes, African American, which no doubt was a factor that may have led some of the athletes to choose him.

Here’s hoping Wright’s cowardice and criminal behavior doesn’t taint the good ones – the young, smart, smooth African American investment specialists who should be chosen to help young athletes make the right choices with their money.

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14 thoughts on “Kirk Wright Took the Coward’s Out

  1. It’s too bad this story finish like that.
    I think that all the celebrities and sports athletes need to promote a financial education to kids. They need to find a way so a young black kid knows that he can be on Wall Street and it is also a potential career for him.
    Then maybe more kids will pay attention to finance and maybe these scams will be less easy. Maybe.
    Thanks for keeping us informed.
    Best regards.
    FD @ Condo Hotel South Beach

  2. frank says:

    Wonder how many are hiding in our resort area?
    http://orlandoreunionresorthomes.com
    They just uncovered a drug operation in a 2.5 m home here.

  3. valerie bowser says:

    I’m so disgusted with Kevin Wright, I could spit! An African American man with an MBA from Harvard rips off his own kind. With a passion. It makes me sick. He also ripped off others who were referred by his friends. He was a snake not worth my time of typing this right now. But I have to say my piece. I can’t stand people like him, regardless of color. I’m African American so that’s why my comment is slanted towards that way. But on the other hand, Kevin Wright was an evil, disgusting, vile person, no matter what color he was. My advice is to everyone, “if it seems too good to be true, it is”. A 45% return in the first month of investing should have been a signal. I guess if everyone wasn’t so greedy, they wouldn’t be in the position that they are in. I would never think of giving my “last dime” to someone to invest. It doesn’t make sense. I can look online and figure out the stock market. And figure out when someone has my money and things are going south. What is wrong with people? It’s prestigious to have a “hedge fund”, “business manager”, “stock broker”.. whomever takes commissions.

  4. valerie bowser says:

    It’s the prestige that catches everyone, and the amount of money the “hedge fund owner, stock broker, whatever” spends on their clients. That’s not a good way to gauge what they are doing with your money. Duhhhhh……..You can fly Air Force One to my house and I’m not going to be impressed. Tell me what you are doing with my money. Show me what you are investing in. How much money is in your bank account. That’s the question! How much money do you have, fool!
    People have to stop and think, stop giving the BS’ers the benefit of the doubt. So many educated, intelligent people have been scorned by scammers. It’s getting worse now that the economy is so bad. People. Remember your roots, the ways of your grandparents who saved their money under the mattress or at least had a nice % CD. That’s what we used to do. The average person, be safe with our money. Not listen to money whoremongers who say you’re going to make 150% on your money in 2 months. When I was growing up, nobody with or without money would listen to that crap. Cause they knew it was crap. It’s still crap today.
    I’m totally amazed at the amount of very rich people that have been ripped off by scams. I watch it on TV. American Greed and Scandals. That show has shown very prominent rich people that have fallen for rip offs. It’s unbelievable to me. Is it just greed? Anybody can cook the books.

  5. valerie bowser says:

    I’ve said my piece

    • Anonymous says:

      You go girl! No one could have said it better!

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said, but recall that this fraud happened because the financial elites of this country have purchased legislation and captured the regulators to allow themselves to operate outside of ordinary consumer protection practices. In effect, so what if a relatively few people get scammed and have their lives destroyed as long as the rich and privileged elite have free rein to capture markets, game the system, and further enrich themselves to the detriment of the global economy.

  6. Bernard H. Jones, Jr. says:

    If people would just read the financial reviews on a regular basis they would see how greed has been a curse to many people. Here was an individual who went to an ivy league institution, worked for top firms, and founded an investment company that had the potential of doing great. There is no short way around anything that is worth anything. This is a good lesson for many people young and old. It amazes me to see kirk with multi-million dollar houses, cars, jewelry, art, and other posessions to go to a jail cell and committ suicide. So sad, but true.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As much as a scum bag as Kirk Wright was, of greater concern is the ease at which he was able to obtain investor funds, even IRA accounts, with no oversight and outside of any regulations. That’s of greater concern since it indicates a massive failure of financial regulation and is a recipe for fraud, putting global financial markets at risk.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It turns out that the “financial advisers” that brought in IRA funds were not in actuality registered advisers. It seems that this type of fraud of retirement funds could be prevented by requiring that IRA funds only be held by registered and SIPC insured institutions and that any adviser for the funds be equally registered and insured to prevent the easy theft of life savings. With these simple and reasonable requirements, much unnecessary fraud could be avoided.

  9. I really benefit from the blog post.Really thank you! Excellent.

  10. Ali says:

    I have a more philosophical view of Mr. Wright, for whatever reason he had the strength and intestinal fortitude to pull himself up from the inner city vice. Put himself through school, and not just any school, Harvard University mind you, but could not find the discipline to resist the lure of that shinny metal in the form of green paper. I think money in the hands of people who NEVER had it before in their life, in large sums and suddenly they find themselves swimming in it…becomes very corrupting. I think, and this is just my opinion, there is a correlation between this type of sudden dereliction of consciousness and sudden burst of wealth.

    The easy thing to do is condemn Mr. Wright, to throw stones, however I think it is such a sad waste of youth and talent to see a gifted young man shake hands with the DEVIL.

  11. Observer says:

    He didn’t just shake hands with the devil, he is living with him now!

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