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Former Saints player Robert Meachem arrives to the private funeral for Tom Benson at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Friday, March 23, 2018. Tom Benson passed away at the age of 90.

Former Saints player Robert Meachem was bilked out of about $1.7 million by a woman he hired to handle his finances several years ago, federal prosecutors in Houston say.

Authorities arrested Tonya Adkism on Wednesday, days after a federal grand jury handed up a 16-count indictment charging her with fraud and identity theft. Among other misdeeds, prosecutors suspect she used Meachem’s money to buy herself a condominium and had his NFL paychecks sent to her.

Some of the allegations first came up as Meachem explained why he’d failed to pay nearly $400,000 in child support and alimony owed to his ex-wife during a dispute that landed him in Gretna’s jail for a few days last year.

But court records unsealed shortly after Adkism’s arrest provide the fullest explanation yet of how she allegedly scammed Meachem out of seven figures.

Meachem hired Adkism, 44, to manage his money in June 2010, a few months after he helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV. She billed herself as a sports attorney, though there’s no indication she was licensed to practice in Texas — where her company was — or other states.

Adkism raided the ex-wide receiver’s finances in a variety of ways from then until early 2016, prosecutors allege.

For one thing, she advised Meachem to open bank accounts under the name of a Metairie-based company called Catch 17. When he did, she got signing authority and obtained debit cards linked to the accounts, and she arranged for the bank statements to arrive at her Houston post office box.

She used those debit cards to pay her own personal expenses, without Meachem’s permission, the feds said.

Additionally, months after Meachem signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers guaranteeing him $14 million in 2012, Adkism arranged for his paychecks to be delivered to her home.

She took two paychecks totaling nearly $1.4 million, deposited them into a Catch 17 account and withdrew about $891,000 from that account. She then deposited the money into an account belonging to her firm, Hangtime Sports, without Meachem initially realizing it, prosecutors alleged.

Prosecutors said Adkism also paid nearly $200,000 out of a Catch 17 account to close the purchase of a condominium in Houston, ownership of which she later transferred to Hangtime. She then had a tenant renting the condo pay her directly or Hangtime. 

Another aspect of the scam involved two bank accounts intended to benefit Meachem's two daughters, the feds said.

Adkism is alleged to have had Bank of America send those bank statements to her post office box, and she obtained checkbooks for the accounts. She then repeatedly forged Meachem’s signatures on checks made out to Hangtime, costing the former pro another $422,000 or so, documents said.

Officials haven’t said how long they investigated Adkism before they secured the indictment charging her with one count of mail fraud, eight counts of bank fraud, five counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of wire fraud.

But Meachem had publicly accused Adkism of ripping him off by late 2016, when attorneys for his ex-wife, Andrea Rhodes, moved to have the former pro locked up after he fell behind on his child support and alimony payments.

Meachem at that time said he paid almost no attention to his bank balances, giving Adkism the opportunity to steal. Though he stopped short of calling it theft, he added that a personal assistant to whom he gave power of attorney had also made a number of unauthorized withdrawals.

Meachem had to borrow money from friends and consider selling shoes to make ends meet, he said then.

A Jefferson Parish judge ultimately sent Meachem to jail for three days. He was released after paying a portion of the money he owed.

Meachem, a 2007 first-round draft pick out of Tennessee, spent the first four and last two of his seven NFL seasons with the Saints. He had one year with the Chargers.

After appearing in front of U.S. District Judge Gray Miller on Tuesday, Adkism was ordered released from custody on an unsecured $50,000 bail. She could face decades in prison and hefty fines if convicted.  

The case is playing out in the same courthouse where Peggy Fulford pleaded guilty earlier this year to scamming $3.5 million from ex-Saints running back Ricky Williams, former NBA champion Dennis Rodman and two other pro athletes who mistakenly believed she was a Harvard-educated financial adviser. She awaits sentencing.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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