Robert Meachem out to show Saints he’s still got it _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD – Robert Meachem towels off during the New Orleans Saints minicamp Tuesday, June 14, 2016, at the Saints training facility.

Facing jail and fines over a missed court hearing and accusations that he owes almost $400,000 in back child support and alimony, former Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem testified Wednesday that a former business associate, Tonya Adkism, bilked him out of millions of dollars.

He also testified that he has given power of attorney and access to his money to an assistant, Tomeka Tovell, who he said has been withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his accounts without his knowledge or direction.

Meachem didn’t characterize the actions of his current assistant as theft, and the attorney for his ex-wife told the Jefferson Parish judge who will decide whether Meachem is in contempt of court that the former Saint employs a lackadaisical approach to his finances as a means of avoiding accountability.

In about 45 minutes of testimony, Meachem, who during the 2009 season helped the Saints win their lone Super Bowl victory, said he doesn’t pay any attention to his bank balances, has had to borrow money from friends, lives off credit cards and is considering getting a job selling shoes.

But Melanie Lockett, the attorney for Andrea Rhodes Meachem, said much of the theft allegedly committed by Adkism would have occurred before Meachem told the court this summer that he could afford to pay $20,000 per month to support Andrea and their two children, ages 7 and 3.

It was under questioning by Lockett that Meachem professed to have no knowledge of how and why $1.8 million was withdrawn in May from a joint investment account Meachem had with his wife. Half of that money went into another account held by Meachem; the other half is unaccounted for.

Meachem has paid $210,148 of the $608,667 he owes his ex-wife through December, leaving him $398,519 in arrears; he hasn’t been making payments in recent months.

Judge Adrian Adams of  24th Judicial District Court will rule in the coming days or weeks on whether Meachem — who missed a prior hearing and failed to produce Tovell for a September deposition related to the case — will be found in contempt.

Meachem’s attorney, Guy deLaup, said Meachem’s problems in paying what he owes are clear, but he blamed the fact that he wasn’t given any kind of a schedule to pay what he owes. He said the amount Meachem has to pay is clearly based on an NFL salary he no longer commands.

“During that time period you were ordered to pay $20,000 a month, did you have the financial ability to make those payments?” DeLaup asked.

“No,” Meachem responded.

Meachem said he hasn’t had a job since the end of the 2014 NFL season but that he was considering finishing up his college degree or possibly working selling shoes or helping with a friend’s janitorial service company.

He said he’d like to think football is still an option. “I still believe I can play,” he said.

Meachem said he borrowed $10,000 from former NFL player and New Orleans native Jacoby Jones, and Tovell helped him get two belated checks worth about $70,000 from the Saints that had been sent to the wrong address.

Lockett, however, argued that Meachem’s failure to consistently pay his child support and alimony warrants a contempt finding and said his hands-off approach toward his finances allows him to claim ignorance in court about what is happening to his money.

“It has to end,” she said. “This has gone on for far too long.”

Lockett got Meachem to admit he has other accounts besides the ones that have been frozen by a court order, but he said he did not know how much money he has in them. She questioned how Meachem has been able to buy plane tickets — he said he used credit card points — or pay his rent and buy groceries. He said for those purposes he uses a credit card that is still active even though he has made no payments on it since September.

As for Tovell, whose ex-husband was briefly a member of the Saints' preseason roster, Meachem said he hired her for $2,000 a month to help him “find out who was stealing my money” but stopped paying her in about May, when he could no longer afford it.

Lockett tried to get Meachem to produce his cellphone, saying it would show he was still in regular contact with Tovell, but Adams wouldn’t allow it.

She asked Meachem why he would continue to allow Tovell to have power of attorney even after she has removed money from his accounts without his knowledge or direction and after he stopped paying her.

“As of right now, it’s because I’m still trying to find other things,” he said, a reference to Adkism’s alleged misdeeds. “And she helped find other things.”

Meachem testified he has turned over to the FBI in Houston information about Adkism, who worked for him until September 2015. No charges have been filed against her. 

Meachem said Adkism — who he said bought a house in his name — used his email account to get the San Diego Chargers to redirect $2.2 million to her and paid off her car and house notes.

“There are several other things she’s done,” said Meachem, who spent one season in San Diego in 2012 on a blockbuster contract that guaranteed him $14 million.

Meachem said the theft of the money Adkism used to pay off her car and house — about $77,000 combined — didn’t come to light until after he signed off on the alimony judgment.

Meachem testified he has a house but doesn’t want to move back into it.

Adams asked Meachem what he drives, and he said he has an Audi A8 and a Cadillac Escalade that are paid for.

While Meachem didn't say how he became acquainted with Adkism and Tovell, state business filings show that both have been involved as officers in his charitable foundations.

Attempts to contact both women by telephone were unsuccessful.

Meachem was recently honored for one of the most memorable plays in the Saints' 50-year history. During the Saints' Super Bowl run, he scored a 44-yard touchdown after stripping the ball from Washington safety Kareem Moore, who had intercepted New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees moments earlier.

Saints supporters have since affectionately referred to that sequence as "the Meacharound" and "Robert's Robbery."

Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.