The Truth About Peggy Fulford's Multi-Million Dollar Scam With The Biggest Sports Stars In The World

Being a top athlete means having to deal with unrelenting media attention and having your every move scrutinized. Dave Bautista's complicated personal life, Aaron Rodgers' cryptic stance on the COVID-19 vaccine, and Tom Brady's relationship with Gisele Bundchen are prime examples of how supporters and critics alike tend to hone in on every possible aspect of an athlete's life. Perhaps no one knows that better than Dennis Rodman, who has provided tabloid fodder for years. From his tense relationship with his daughter to his public support of Donald Trump, the NBA star has given folks plenty to talk about. But perhaps of most interest has been his personal wealth — or, more specifically, how Rodman lost all of his money

As it turns out, one of the biggest factors behind Rodman's financial demise had nothing to do with living a lavish lifestyle. Rather, it was the result of a con artist tricking him out of millions. Her name was Peggy Fulford, and she managed to steal large chunks of cash from a slew of top athletes in the NBA and NFL. 

Here's how Fulford managed to build a multimillion-dollar scam that duped some of the biggest sports stars in the world — until it all came tumbling down around her.

How Peggy Fulford infiltrated the NBA and NFL

Peggy Fulford's client list was a who's who of professional athletes, including Dennis Rodman, Travis Best, Lex Hilliard, and Ricky Williams, per Sports Illustrated. Fulford promised her clients they could sit back and relax as she took care of their finances. "I do control a very large part of their lives, and when you control someone's finances, that is their life," she once boasted in a reality series sizzle reel, per Oxygen.

Fulford's scheme began when she made herself an intrinsic part of Best's world. They met in the early '90s, per Sports Illustrated, and by 2000, she was "like his concierge," running many aspects of his life. In 2001, she signed Best to her company, King Management, and took "exclusive control" of his money. Her next big client was Williams. According to the CNBC series "American Greed" (via Oxygen), she met him by fluke when she showed up at his house with a decorator he had hired to spruce his space up for the MTV reality series "Cribs." She pitched him her financial services, and he accepted. 

As Sports Illustrated learned, Fulford's signature move was offering to work without pay and promising to help build "generational wealth." It was too good for Williams to pass up. He was initially so pleased that he introduced Fulford to Hilliard, who had recently lost "every dime" he had invested in a pawn shop. Fulford swooped in, offered him $10,000 without interest, and locked in her next victim.

Her unique relationship with Dennis Rodman

Without a doubt, Peggy Fulford's most famed client was Dennis Rodman, and their relationship extended beyond the professional. The pair met through a mutual friend when Rodman was struggling with alcoholism, and Fulford built a connection with the NBA player. "It was a very symbiotic relationship," said Rodman's attorney, Bradford Cohen, on "American Greed." Cohen suggested that Rodman was seeking "emotional support" from Fulford, while she was after his wallet. 

A unique bond soon formed. As Sports Illustrated learned, Rodman would go in and out of Fulford's house freely (he knew her security code), and he even took her oldest child, a son named Elkin King, with him to North Korea in 2013. What's more, he publicly called Fulford and King "the family" and gushed that they were "taking care of me these days" while delivering a speech at his Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in 2012. "Thank you, Peggy," he proclaimed. 

Unfortunately, his appreciation for Fulford didn't spare him from her scamming and scheming. While stealing from her supposed friend, Fulford allowed the electricity to be cut off at his Florida condo, stopped making payments on his life insurance policy, and even took away his debit card, claiming he "couldn't be trusted" to spend his money responsibly. Their bond was so strong, though, that even as red flags began to mount, Rodman put his trust in Fulford. Per Oxygen, he was finally forced to accept the truth when the FBI became involved and spoke with him directly.

Peggy Fulford almost became a reality TV star

Back in 2011, Peggy Fulford was at the top of her game, stealing money from her clients and living in the lap of luxury. As Sports Illustrated reported, she had multiple homes, including a mansion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a fleet of luxury vehicles, including a Rolls-Royce, and "nearly $2 million in American Express bills." It was at that time that network executives were shown a proposal for a reality TV show called "The Peggy Show," which would feature Fulford, her family, and her various high-profile clients. Both Oxygen and VH1 appeared to be interested, but in the end, it was BET that ordered a pilot.

By obtaining a document detailing the reality series' pitch, Sports Illustrated learned that Fulford was billing herself as the "owner and CEO of King Management Group" and boasting about being a business manager to 31 clients (all pro athletes) who trusted her with their "financial lives." However, the blurb proclaimed, "Money is usually the least of the partnership." Noting how Fulford's clients called her "mama," the pitch underscored that her job was a varied one: For her clients, she was willing to "furnish homes, buy engagement rings, and deal with endless baby mama drama." 

There was also a sizzle reel in which Fulford herself proclaimed, per Oxygen, "I bring a lot of concern, I bring a lot of knowledge." This was followed by a false promise: "I'll be there long after [retirement] because I care, I really do."

Peggy Fulford lied about being a Harvard grad

In the sizzle reel for Peggy Fulford's potential reality series, a camera followed her around her home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, while she showed off many impressive sights, including an office packed with autographed sports memorabilia and a framed Harvard diploma, according to Sports Illustrated. Fulford claimed she had earned degrees in law and business from Harvard, per Broward Palm Beach New Times, passed her General Securities Representative Qualification Examination, and went on to work on Wall Street. The only problem was that her diploma wasn't real, and her fictitious résumé would eventually become the first thread that would completely unravel her web of lies.

As Sports Illustrated reported, Ricky Williams and Kristin Barnes built a particularly strong bond with Fulford after she burrowed into their lives. Soon, they were vacationing together and spending Thanksgiving together. Barnes considered Fulford her "best friend," but an investigation into Fulford's academic career would change that. As financial red flags began popping up (like learning Williams owed $375,000 to the IRS), Barnes decided to do some digging and asked a friend who actually went to Harvard to look for Fulford in the school's alumni database. She wasn't there. 

The discovery triggered Fulford's demise. The FBI became involved and learned that she had actually attended Atlanta's Spelman College but quit after becoming pregnant. And the boast she made in her second wedding announcement in 1981 about having an engineering degree from Georgia Tech was as phony as her Harvard diploma.

Peggy Fulford stole millions from her clients

Once Ricky Williams and Kristin Barnes discovered that Peggy Fulford was a fraud, they filed a civil suit. They revealed that most of the money Williams earned in the NFL between 2008 and 2012 had practically gone missing, according to Sports Illustrated. That's when law enforcement got involved and discovered the full extent of Fulford's scheme. According to the United States Department of Justice, Fulford's M.O. was that she "never requested a fee," claiming she was a millionaire and wasn't interested in financial gains. Once she earned her targets' trust — and access to their bank accounts — she failed to pay taxes and bills and make investments as promised. What she did do was launder their hard-earned cash "through dozens of bank accounts to pay for her own personal expenses."

Per Sports Illustrated, Fulford would create two bank accounts for each client: one with money for day-to-day expenses and one with money for investments, which she "funneled into her own coffers." In order to avoid getting caught, she constantly wired money between accounts while also using it to pay for her lavish lifestyle. 

The outlet uncovered other schemes, including how Fulford used a credit card machine to steal from Williams' South Beach restaurant. She also charged him double the actual cost of organizing his wedding. In the end, her victims' provable losses tallied in the millions: $3.01 million from Williams, $1.24 million from Dennis Rodman, $1.4 million from Travis Best, $200,000 from Rashad McCants, and $132,000 from Lex Hilliard.

Was she a 'chameleon ghost witch'?

Peggy Fulford may not have graduated from Harvard, but she was sure a master con artist. During the FBI's investigation, it was uncovered that Fulford had eight aliases, ran over 85 bank accounts, and had created more than a dozen shell corporations, a few of which bore Dennis Rodman's name. As FBI agent James Hawkins explained to Sports Illustrated, the money launderer would constantly move assets around in the "most blatant attempt I've ever seen of someone trying to hide where the money was coming from." He recalled, "I'd see money jump from one account, back to another, back to another." According to Broward Palm Beach New Times, Ricky Williams also accused Fulford of impersonating his then-wife in an attempt to dupe the IRS.

Fulford created such a tangled web that the FBI actually stopped trying to unravel it. It's not surprising then that one basketball agent called her "the black widow of banking" and a "chameleon ghost witch."

In the end, authorities discovered that the real Peggy Fulford was born Peggy Ann Barard in New Orleans in 1958. She had a tough go at life early on: She lost her baby sister to leukemia, her brother was killed in a shooting at his corner store, and "her mother died from smoke inhalation" in a house fire caused by lit candles. Could the hardships have pushed Fulford into a life of crime? It's possible.

A power of attorney was her weapon of choice

Peggy Fulford's scheme wasn't just reliant on her being able to gain her victims' trust, but also on her ability to secure a power of attorney from each sports star. As the American Bar Association explains, "A power of attorney gives one or more persons the power to act on your behalf as your agent," and, when used honestly and correctly, the document is "an important part of lifetime planning." Unfortunately for Fulford's A-list clients, Fulford didn't use it honestly, and giving her the power to manage all of their assets was a grave mistake. 

As attorney Kimberly Schechter told CNBC, the document is "powerful" because it gives someone "unfettered access to financial information, to making business decisions, opening bank accounts, closing bank accounts." It was that very power that allowed Fulford to embezzle millions by gaining access to other people's cash, thus allowing her to freely move it around. 

It's clear that she knew how important gaining that right was. As NBA player Rashad McCants, who also trusted Fulford, told CNBC, "Peggy was sexy, she was attractive, she was seductive, she knew how to play on a man's heartstrings." In short, "she knew what to do to lower your guard." On "American Greed," Dennis Rodman admitted that giving power of attorney to Fulford was a mistake, but hopes others "can learn from this experience." He shared, "It makes me sad I trusted someone I considered family to manage my money, and they did terribly wrong by me."

Did Ricky Williams lose everything to karma?

While Dennis Rodman was "sad" to learn that he'd been duped by Peggy Fulford, Ricky Williams saw the situation in a different light. Speaking with VladTV in 2021, he shared why he's not upset about losing "all" of his money (at least $3.01 million, per Sports Illustrated, but closer to $7 million, according to him). After explaining that he's "really good at bouncing back from adversity," Williams said that he would have missed out on a lot if he'd had all that money in the bank when he retired from the NFL in 2012.  

Williams revealed that being scammed forced him to "wake up and realize there's more things that I could do than just live off of the money that I made playing football, and it got me to be more proactive." His pursuits included returning to school and focusing on his broadcasting career. He also said that the experience sparked a sense of "dignity and self-respect that I never would have had the opportunity to earn if Peggy hadn't done this."

Calling himself a "spiritual person," Williams underscored how "everything that shows up in my life is happening for me, not to me." He admitted that there were "plenty of signs" he failed to acknowledge, saying, "I don't blame [Fulford], it's on me." He also suggested that "karma" may have been at play, confessing that he was "a little thief" as a kid and even theorizing that he stole in his "past lives." "So it comes back," he added.

She ended her spree behind bars

Peggy Fulford's run as a top con artist (which lasted from 2001 to 2014) came to an end in December 2016 when she was charged with "wire fraud, mail fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering," per the Department of Justice. She was arrested in New Orleans before being transported to Houston, Texas. 

In February 2018, she took a plea deal, per the New Orleans Advocate, and pleaded guilty to one count of "interstate transportation of stolen property," admitting that she moved "$200,000 in stolen money from Montana to Texas," per the Cincinnati Enquirer. In exchange, all "charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering" were dropped. As the Department of Justice explained, the wire and mail fraud charges came with a maximum sentence of "20 years in federal prison," while the longest possible sentence for the interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering charges was half that.

In November 2018, Peggy Fulford received the maximum allowed sentence of 10 years for her single charge, per the Associated Press, and was ordered by a federal judge in Houston to pay nearly "$5.8 million in restitution to her victims." As the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, following her release from prison, she'll be subject to "three years of supervised release."

Peggy Fulford didn't just cheat athletes

Being put on trial didn't stop Peggy Fulford from doing what she did best. In January 2018, two days before she accepted her plea deal, she was arrested by New Orleans police while out on bail, per The New Orleans Advocate, and "charged with theft." The allegation was that she convinced Dr. Joseph Boucree, a Slidell, Louisiana, resident, to give her $174,000 so they could purchase an old high school and turn it into an assisted living facility for seniors. The only problem was that the campus wasn't actually for sale, and Fulford simply pocketed the cash. 

According to a later report in The New Orleans Advocate, Fulford had actually convinced Boucree to put up a total of $371,000, but once he learned about her 2016 arrest, he quickly canceled a check for $197,000. Unfortunately, she had already cashed the other check for $174,000, and he wasn't able to get that amount back.

Jump to June 2019 and Fulford was once again pleading guilty, this time to "theft and a worthless check charge." She was sentenced to three years behind bars, which would run in concurrence with her 10-year prison sentence for defrauding numerous athletes. The end of her prison term falls in July 2027.