Tim Donaghy, you may have heard, used his position as an NBA referee to make some money, but that landed him in prison on federal gambling charges.
So he tried to earn some legitimate cash, using his notoriety to market his tell-all book, "Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA."
Now that plan appears to have backfired, too. Donaghy is alleging in court documents that his ex-publisher used him to pay off debt or line her own pockets - and he's got her brother backing him up.
Donaghy, 43, filed a lawsuit this week in a Pinellas County, Fla., court, charging that VTi-Media chief executive Shawna Vercher had misappropriated $300,000 in book revenue, leaving him without his cut of the profits to pay restitution for his crimes and support his family.
"I feel pretty comfortable in saying that the money is gone, because she doesn't have the ability to show anybody where it is," Donaghy's attorney, Nicholas Mooney, said yesterday.
Donaghy has been arguing for months that Vercher had ripped him off because she was refusing to show him where the book profits had gone. The first 10,000 copies of "Personal Foul," released in December, sold in a couple weeks, but he still hasn't seen any money.
But he's not the only one who claims to have been shafted by Vercher. Her brother, Benjamin Daniel, a former VTi project manager who left the company in January, also has filed a breach-of-contract suit against her.
"I was never paid for the work I did on Tim's book. I haven't seen a dime from it," Daniel told the Daily News this week.
Vercher did not respond yesterday to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment. She said in May that the book revenue is in a holding account and that VTi would tally the profits by July after the conclusion of the 180-day period during which vendors can return unsold copies.
"It's August," Daniel said, "and there's still not been an accounting."
Daniel said it shouldn't be difficult to determine how much money was made. He said one of his jobs at VTi was tracking the number of copies sold, and they tracked each book.
"There was a spreadsheet with literally every book sold and how the money broke down, who was getting what," he said.
Vercher has accused Donaghy of threatening company employees with references to the Gambino crime family, a claim Donaghy denies. He says it's a smokescreen for her fraud.
"Having been a prosecutor, the first rule of thumb is, if somebody is not going to show you records, there's a reason for that, plain and simple," Mooney said.
Last month, Vercher told the St. Petersburg Times that the book profits could total less than $100,000, after expenses. She also said she doesn't plan to take her cut.
Mooney isn't buying it.
"She tries to spin this, 'Poor Ms. Shawna. I'm not going to take any money from this. I'm just going to give Tim $100,000.' Does that make sense to you? She's a master manipulator," Mooney said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has subpoenaed Vercher for records, but it is unclear whether it intends to pursue a criminal investigation.
Donaghy and his two suburban Philadelphia co-conspirators, James Battista and Thomas Martino, were ordered in 2008 to pay the NBA a total of $217,000 in restitution. Donaghy had hoped to use the book sales to cover his share.
"While trying to distract onlookers from the truth, Ms. Vercher is now being called upon to explain her behavior and we are depending on the system to help make things right," the ex-ref said in an e-mail last night.
Mooney thinks Vercher has used the money to dig herself and VTi out of debt, with the mind-set that nobody would believe Donaghy because he's a felon.
"He made some bad decisions and he's paid his debt to society. Now he's out, and she's stealing from him. She's taking his money and trying to ruin his life," Mooney said. "I can't wait to get her in to deposition."