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LAKERS' PICK CHARGED IN FRAUD SCAM.

Byline: Ross Siler Staff Writer

Marcus Douthit, the Lakers' second-round pick in last month's draft, was one of seven people charged Thursday with taking part in a Rhode Island identity theft and embezzlement scheme that allegedly filed more than $160,000 in false slip-and-fall and car accident claims.

Douthit, who played college basketball at Providence, was indicted by a statewide grand jury on one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement and embezzlement over $100, according to the Rhode Island attorney general's office.

Douthit was alleged to have received $6,500 from faking a car accident in December 2001 and filing a false insurance claim. The money awarded then was deposited by Douthit in a Providence bank account, attorney general spokesman Michael Healey said.

But Douthit's agent, Charles Bonsignore, said the accused ringleaders of the scam, James Cook and Kristen Cook, obtained Douthit's social security number after befriending him and used it to file the claim without the 24-year-old's knowledge.

In addition, Bonsignore said investigators asked Douthit to come in and clear his name in the case. But Douthit was away from Providence as he worked out for more than a dozen NBA teams leading up to last month's draft and could not schedule a meeting.

Healey said prosecutors had tried to contact Douthit ``two or three times'' but received no response.

The Cooks, who graduated from law school together but are unrelated, were named on all 125 counts of the indictment. Two of the seven defendants were arraigned Thursday and the attorney general's office said arrest warrants were being issued for the others.

Healey said Douthit had retained Rhode Island state Senator John Revens. No plans had yet been made for Douthit to turn himself in, Bonsignore said.

The Lakers took Douthit in the second round (56th overall), a surprise considering the team was not one of the 14 for which he worked out before the draft.

In the month since, Douthit went home to Syracuse, N.Y., then played with the Lakers' Summer Pro League team in Long Beach. But he failed to meet with Warwick (R.I.) police detectives regarding the case.

``They didn't press Marcus on it,'' Bonsignore said. ``It was more, `Can you come in and sign an affidavit that you weren't involved when you can.' ''

Douthit and the Lakers were in contract negotiations this week. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team had spoken to Bonsignore, was aware of the charge and was trying to get more information.

A 6-foot-11 forward/center, Douthit averaged better than 13 points and seven rebounds in seven summer league games. He could face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted on the charge, though the typical sentence is far less.

Ross Siler, (818) 713-3610

ross.siler(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 30, 2004
Words:463
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