Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery charged with fraud scheme

Olympic gold medalist Tim Montgomery was arrested on Friday on charges he was connected to a multimillion-dollar bank fraud and money laundering scheme, prosecutors said.

A grand jury indictment unsealed in New York accused the star sprinter, his gold medalist track coach, Steven Riddick, and 12 other people of being involved in a conspiracy that deposited $5 million (Ђ4 million) in stolen, altered or counterfeit checks over three years.

Some of the money was laundered through a coffee businesses owned by a New York couple, according to the indictment.

Montgomery, the former 100-meter world record-holder, surrendered to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Norfolk, Virginia on Friday morning. He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance at a federal court in Norfolk on Friday afternoon.

His attorney, Robert McFarland, did not immediately return a phone message.

Investigators accused Montgomery of being a lesser player in a scheme hatched by lead defendants Douglas Shyne and Natasha Singh.

The couple are accused of setting up sham businesses to take checks stolen from banks and either alter them or make counterfeit copies.

Most of the checks were written by large companies that didn't immediately notice the cash missing, federal agents said.

Montgomery, who the indictment said knew the family through an acquaintence, deposited three bogus checks worth a total of $775,000 (Ђ618,000). Only one of them cleared. Montgomery picked up a $20,000 (Ђ16,000) fee for the transaction, prosecutors said.

The arrest is just the latest in a series of bad twists for the one-time superstar.

The 31-year-old runner was banned from athletics for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for doping based on evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of BALCO, the lab at the center of a steroid scandal in U.S. sports. Montgomery retired in December rather than wait out the suspension.

He never tested positive for drugs, and maintains he never knowingly took steroids or any other banned substances.

All of Montgomery's performances were wiped off the books as of March 31, 2001, including his world record dash of 9.78 seconds in 2002. Montgomery won his gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the 2000 Olympics.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Martin Ficke said the fraud investigation began in 2005 after a bank alerted authorities about one of the suspicious checks, and was unrelated to the BALCO probe.

Most of the other defendants in the case have already been arrested and arraigned in sealed court proceedings, including Riddick, who is accused of depositing at least $905,000 (Ђ722,000) in stolen checks.

Three people associated with the case have already pleaded guilty, prosecutors said, reports AP.

O.Ch.