(WSVN) - Some former NFL players are in a fight off the field. They invested in what they thought would be game-changing technology. Brian Entin found out they’re battling to get their money back. It’s tonight’s 7 Investigates.
Alex Barron, Bryant McFadden and Greg Jones have three things in common.
All three men played college football at Florida State University. All played professionally in the National Football League, and and all three say they lost big bucks investing in a company later accused of fraud.
Greg Jones: “We got taken advantage of. I don’t like getting taken advantage of.”
Alex Barron: “Keeps me a little angry and a little heartbroken.”
Bryant McFadden: “If I knew what I know now, I would have taken my little investment and went to Vegas and just put it on red or black.”
Their off-the-field saga started more than a decade ago when the players were pitched an investment that — at the time — would have been game-changing technology.
Alex Barron, invested in Hawk Systems: “Start the car with a fingerprint, unlocking the door with a fingerprint, just pretty much everything.”
Palm Beach County-based Hawk Systems claimed to be developing a product that would start cars without keys using only a driver’s fingerprint.
Greg Jones, invested in Hawk Systems: “Me, Bryant, Alex and a big table of football players, who just got done working out, and he made his pitch.”
He, according to Jones, is David Coriaty — the founder of Hawk Systems.
The players say Coriaty made a compelling case for why they should invest their money.
Bryant McFadden, invested in Hawk Systems: “It was a real good pitch. Instantly, I thought, ‘Wow, this is intriguing. It’s interesting.'”
The three players liked the idea so much, they decided to invest, but as time went on, Hawk Systems never completed or sold an actual product, and their money vanished.
Bryant McFadden: “I had a few hundred thousand ($200,000).”
Alex Barron: “A hundred ($100,000).”
Greg Jones: “$125,000.”
According to the 2013 Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report, while investors were pouring millions of dollars into Hawk, “numerous checks” from company accounts were paid “to jewelers, home mortgages, home landscapers, luxury cars, Coriaty relatives, ex-wife, wedding expenses, and the like.”
A detective called it an “organized scheme to defraud investors.”
Alex Barron: “Disgust. I was disgusted.”
Here’s where things get interesting.
In 2013, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office transferred the case to the FBI, but three years later, the FBI told the sheriff’s office they were not going to file criminal charges. It was case closed for both the feds and local law enforcement.
Cathy Lerman, attorney: “There’s no evidence that the investment monies that they solicited and collected in the millions of dollars was ever intended to be used to produce a product by Hawk Systems.”
The sheriff’s office tells 7News, “Since the FBI assumed the case, which is the higher authority, the locals step back. We do not trump [the] FBI. The FBI trumps us.”
The FBI would not comment, and now, the decade-old case drags on in the civil courts.
David Coriaty (in video deposition): “We had a product. We were developing the product. I never said we didn’t have any product. We were developing a product.
Attorney (in video deposition): “You didn’t have inventory to sell?”
David Coriaty (in video deposition): “Correct.”
That’s Hawk Systems’ founder David Coriaty in a deposition.
David Coriaty (in video deposition): “But I didn’t receive all this f****** money, and I’ve been calm all day. I’m not going to be calm no more. I didn’t get no f****** money for myself from all these f****** checks.”
Coriaty denies doing anything wrong.
In an email to 7News he pointed out, “Why did the FBI, SEC, DOJ and PBSO all investigate and close the case with not one fine, arrest, charge or indictment? Because the people they investigated are innocent.”
For the former players, this is not just about them.
It’s about dozens of people across the country who — combined — lost millions investing in Hawk.
Bryant McFadden: “We’re talking about normal working people, elderly people, and hearing they were taken advantage of also doesn’t sit well with myself and my two homeboys here.”
Whether any of the investors will ever get money back is the million dollar question.
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