Former NFL player Irving Fryar and his mother pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that they conspired to steal more than $690,000 through a mortgage scam.
State prosecutors allege Fryar's 80-year-old mother, Allene McGhee, of Willingboro, submitted false information to obtain five loans on her home within a six-day period. The two were indicted on counts of conspiracy and theft by deception.
Fryar, 51, lives in Springfield N.J., and is pastor of a church he founded. The former wide receiver played for four NFL teams between 1984 and 2000, including the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. Until he was indicted last year, he was the head football coach at Robbinsville High School.
At Tuesday's court hearing, McGhee's lawyer Mark Fury said his client and her son were the victims of a scam, not the perpetrators.
He said the case sprung from the 2011 wire fraud plea from William Barksdale, a Levittown, Pa., man who used to run loan businesses. Fury said that as part of the deal, Barksdale, who is awaiting sentencing, agreed to cooperate with authorities.
"The feds leaned on this person to find a name or two or three or 10," Fury told a judge.
He said the only part prosecutors decided to pursue was the one involving a famous person, a point he underscored in court by turning to Fryar and asking, "You were No. 9 all-time in receptions when you retired?'' he asked.
Fryar, who otherwise let his lawyer speak for him, replied softly to correct him: "Five."
Fury said neither Fryar nor his mother received any of the money from the loans.
Fryar rejected a plea agreement that calls for five years in prison and his mother rejected a deal that would include a three-year sentence.
The judge allowed McGhee to be free on her own recognizance and set bail of $20,000 for Fryar.