Man who defrauded NFL players pleads guilty, will serve 18 months

Sills impersonated athletes, stole from former girlfriend

April 30, 2005|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Lewis V. Sills III spun quite a story when he began dating an old elementary school classmate last year. He moved from Georgia into her Elkridge home. He told her he was a lawyer. He said he was getting $80,000 from a legal settlement.

All lies, said the former girlfriend, Jorielle R. Brown. And to cover his tracks, the broke, unemployed Sills came up with a scheme to bilk NFL players by impersonating fellow athletes, including Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware.

Yesterday, at a hearing where Brown told her story, Sills, 30, pleaded guilty in Howard County Circuit Court to identity fraud and illegally using Brown's credit card number. He was ordered to pay nearly $4,800 to his victims and sentenced to 18 months in the Howard County Detention Center.

Judge Diane O. Leasure also assigned Sills to five years of supervised probation and ordered that he have no contact with Brown or any past, present or future National Football League employees.

"Mr. Sills simply wanted to be someone he was not in order to meet the standards of Miss Brown," said Jenny Parks, Sills' lawyer, who said her client is remorseful. "He lied to his girlfriend because he was not man enough to tell her."

Along with Boulware, Sills was accused of impersonating Washington Redskins player James Thrash and New York Jets player Laveranues Coles. He pleaded guilty in two of the cases.

None of the NFL players or their representatives was at yesterday's court proceeding.

His scheme involved contacting players on their cell phones; the NFL does not know how he got the numbers.

"Even I would have a hard time if I was trying to get a player's number," said Ronald Grady, an NFL security representative, who was in court yesterday and said he was satisfied with the plea.

The scam began Dec. 17, when retired Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green received a call from someone claiming to be Boulware, according to the statement of facts read yesterday by Assistant State's Attorney Lynn Marshall.

The man asked Green to help find a job for his cousin, a person he called Lewis Sills, and requested $900 be wired to a Western Union in Elkridge. Green sent the money -- but became suspicious a few days later when the same man said he needed $3,200. Green contacted Boulware, who said he did not call him and did not have a cousin named Sills, according to the statement.

Sills was accused of calling Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb on Dec. 22 and pretending to be Thrash, a former teammate, and again "fabricated an elaborate, desperate tale," according to charging documents. McNabb forwarded $600 to the man through Western Union.

As part of the plea agreement, the charges involving McNabb and Thrash were dropped.

On Dec. 28, Sills' scheme came to an end. He was accused of contacting Warren Sapp, a defensive tackle with the Oakland Raiders, while pretending to be Coles. Sills allegedly asked for $1,800, and Sapp became suspicious and contacted Jeff Rubin, his financial manager, according to Marshall.

Rubin then contacted NFL security and Howard County police, who set up an undercover operation. Sills was arrested after fleeing an Elkridge supermarket, where he had been lured by police. He pleaded guilty to resisting arrest.

Sills also was accused of stealing Brown's MBNA credit card number and charging $3,820. Brown said her total debt exceeds $15,000, including bills and lost wages.

"It is evident Lewis sought me out for the sole purpose of extorting money," Brown told Leasure through tears. "Lewis Sills is a con artist, he's a thief."

Sills -- who was ordered to pay $3,820 to MBNA Corp.; $985 to Green; and $52 to Rubin (the fee for wiring the money) -- apologized and said he needed the money.

"I wasn't trying to con her," he said of Brown. "I wanted to keep the relationship going."

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