Peggy Fulford mug shot

Peggy Fulford, via Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office

A federal judge in Houston on Wednesday handed a 10-year prison sentence to a New Orleans woman who admitted she scammed millions of dollars from Ricky Williams, Dennis Rodman and other pro athletes.

Peggy Ann Fulford — who posed as a financial adviser but ultimately pocketed her clients’ money — must also pay more than $5.7 million in restitution to her victims, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled.

Fulford’s prison term was the maximum she faced after she pleaded guilty Feb. 1 to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. In return for her plea, prosecutors dropped charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering listed in an eight-count indictment that a grand jury returned against her nearly two years ago.

The case in Texas is not Fulford’s only legal problem. Two days before she pleaded guilty in that matter, New Orleans police arrested her on allegations that she persuaded a friend to invest $174,000 with her so that they could purchase Holy Cross School’s former Lower 9th Ward campus and rebuild it into an assisted living community for the elderly.

The property was never put up for sale, but Fulford’s friend was unable to recover his money.

New Orleans authorities charged her with theft. There has been no resolution to that case, which is unrelated to the one that ensnared Williams, Rodman, ex-NFL player Lex Hilliard and former NBA pro Travis Best.

Kristin Williams and Rebekah Hilliard, the wives of Ricky Williams and Lex Hilliard, testified Wednesday about the financial and emotional havoc that Fulford's scheming brought to their families.

At one point, Ellison asked how much Fulford stole of the money Ricky Williams had earned in 11 NFL seasons, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston said. Kristin Williams replied, "All of it." 

Federal court documents report that Fulford misled the athletes she targeted into believing she had studied law and business at Harvard before making a fortune on Wall Street through hospital deals and real-estate investments in the Bahamas.

Now 60, Fulford promised to pay their bills, file their taxes and make retirement investments on their behalf for free, saying she was already wealthy and simply hoped to protect them from losing their money.

Yet between 2001 and 2014, Fulford plundered a number of bank accounts to which she had gained access, spending the athletes' money on cars, jewelry, airline tickets and land for herself. Her behavior was eventually detected, and she was arrested in December 2016.

A magistrate judge allowed Fulford to remain free on an unsecured bond of $25,000 after both her arrest and plea. But prosecutors successfully moved to revoke her bail and put her behind bars in the weeks ahead of her sentencing.

They cited various reasons, including her failure to disclose her arrest in the New Orleans case to federal officials supervising her release on bail. They also pointed to her continued use of a bank account that she had used in defrauding Rodman as well as her inability to prove that she had surrendered her passport to the government, court records show.

Additionally, a New Orleans-area man testified Wednesday that Fulford — using the name Peggy Jones — had swindled him out of $25,000 she persuaded him to invest in a bogus Arizona medical company, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. 

Fulford’s arrest caused a stir in the sports world when it emerged that Williams — a former New Orleans Saints player and winner of college football’s Heisman trophy — as well as NBA champion Rodman were among her victims.

Fulford’s lawyer in Houston couldn't be reached for comment.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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