Former Philadelphia Eagles star Irving Fryar is speaking out for the first time since he was found guilty Friday of co-conspiring with his mother in a $1 million mortgage fraud scheme.
The 52-year-old former wide receiver, who made his name at the University of Nebraska and with several NFL teams, including the Eagles, maintained his innocence in an exclusive interview with NBC10’s Vai Sikahema.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life,” Fryar said.
A jury found that Fryar applied for multiple mortgage loans in quick succession while using the same property as collateral. Fryar's mother, Allene McGhee, also was convicted. Neither Fryar nor his mother testified at the three week trial.
Fryar's defense was that he was a victim of a "con artist" who told him to carry out the scheme.
"I got duped," Fryar said.
They rejected plea deals that would have meant five years in prison for Fryar and three for McGhee. Instead, Fryar and his mother went to trial to face conspiracy and theft by deception charges and were found guilty on both counts.
Authorities said Fryar and McGhee provided false wage information on her loan applications and claimed she earned thousands of dollars a month as an event coordinator for Fryar's church. The pair made just a few payments on four of the loans and banks eventually wrote the loans off as losses, according to authorities.
During his interview with NBC10, Fryar insisted he never saw the $1.2 million the government says he and his mother duped from multiple banks. Fryar claims William Barksdale, a former fraternity brother and the government's key witness, conned him and his mother and then pocketed all the money.
“My mother thought she was applying for a loan to buy a house,” Fryar said. “So he took her to multiple banks to have her apply for a loan. Mr. Barksdale told my mother, ‘You got a loan, you got a mortgage for the house, it’s at Beneficial, pay this mortgage at Beneficial.’”
“So she paid the mortgage to Beneficial for 2 to 2 ½ years. Come to find out when all this went down was that the mortgage that was on the house was at Cornerstone. Cornerstone foreclosed on my mother’s house. My mother lost her house and she was paying the mortgage on one of his other houses.”
Barksdale pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge last year. He is serving a 20-month sentence in federal prison.
Fryar continues to maintain his innocence but says that day after day of technical information and financial data was lost on the jury.
“In my mind yes the verdict should’ve been not guilty,” he said. “But I wasn't surprised. [The jury] can’t take notes. You bombard them with all this information over the course of three weeks and then you put them in a room and ask them to make a decision, there’s a chance that it might not be the right decision.”
Fryar was freed Friday on $20,000 bail and his mother was released on her own recognizance. He and his mother both face up to 10 years in prison.
Fryar starred for Rancocas Valley High School in Mount Holly, NJ before playing at the University of Nebraska and becoming the first overall pick in the 1984 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. He later played for the Miami Dolphins, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins.
He is now the pastor of a church he founded, and for a time he also worked as a high school football coach in Robbinsville, NJ.