- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

A federal bankruptcy judge has granted attorneys for former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe the right to probe a deal between the boxer and a D.C. company that held tens of millions of dollars in government security contracts before its collapse.

Judge Paul Mannes issued his order Tuesday, a week after Mr. Bowe’s attorneys cited “questionable transactions” and “highly suspicious circumstances” in a $3 million claim against the boxer by a Virginia lending company.

The company, Commerce Funding Corp. of Vienna, Va., says Mr. Bowe failed to honor an agreement he signed into 2002 to guarantee millions of dollars in financing that the lending company provided to D.C.-based Unlimited Security Inc.

Unlimited Security fell into bankruptcy liquidation earlier this year. Its former chief executive, Jeffrey N. Jackson, also ran a boxing promotion company that did business with Mr. Bowe. From 2000 to 2002, Mr. Bowe loaned or invested about $2 million in Unlimited, court records show.

Mr. Bowe filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Greenbelt on Oct. 15, just before new federal rules took effect making it more difficult to avoid repaying creditors. Mr. Jackson filed bankruptcy in the same court in August.

The bankruptcy filings in the boxer’s case detail a bitter fallout between Mr. Bowe and Mr. Jackson, who was replaced as chief executive in 2003.

Mr. Bowe’s attorneys are questioning whether the financing agreements the boxer signed on behalf of Unlimited Security, when Mr. Jackson was in charge, were forgeries or “created under false pretenses.”

The attorneys cited handwritten changes to the agreement and two pages “not believed to have been a part of any document the debtor ever signed,” court records show.

“The highly suspicious circumstances and questionable transactions… all cry out for a thorough investigation,” Mr. Bowe’s attorneys said in filings.

The ruling to allow an examination of the Commerce Funding arrangement gives Mr. Bowe’s attorneys the right to investigate the deal, request documents and interview officials.

“This is a way of obtaining information,” said Gregory E. Maggs, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law and a bankruptcy specialist. “It doesn’t mean anybody has done anything wrong. It means you just want to look and see if there are any transactions that may be challenged.”

Mr. Maggs said orders permitting an examination are not unusual in bankruptcy cases. “It allows for evidence to be collected,” he said.

Mr. Bowe’s attorneys will be seeking any evidence they can use to challenge Commerce Funding’s $3 million claim against the boxer.

The company sued Mr. Bowe last year after Unlimited Security collapsed. A Fairfax Circuit Court judge recently ruled against Mr. Bowe, citing his failure to respond to deadlines.

Mr. Bowe’s bankruptcy attorneys also are challenging whether the boxer received adequate legal representation. His previous attorney, Jimmie Ray Lawson of Collinsville, Va., was recently disbarred. The Virginia Bar Associated cited mishandling of client funds, including $500,000 belonging to Mr. Bowe.

This week, Mr. Bowe’s attorneys filed a request to examine Mr. Lawson’s dealings with Eastern Savings Bank, which held the mortgage on the boxer’s home in Fort Washington.

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