Christopher Milner, assistant district attorney and chief of the Collin County District Attorney’s Special Crimes Unit, said in less than a week, he will show a line of evidence that portrays Malik Ibrahim as a man who preys on his victims and uses their dreams and hopes against them.
“He is a manipulator of men and a manipulator of the desires of men’s hearts,” Milner said in his opening statement before the jury.
Ibrahim is facing three second-degree felony counts of securing execution of a document by deception and a first-degree felony charge of theft over $200,000. Ibrahim is accused of stealing $750,000 from Robert Richardson Sr., of McKinney, by claiming he would put the money in a Bank of America account and use it to match corporate sponsorships to fund races for his son, Robert Richardson Jr., to get him into his company’s, Maverick Motorsports, truck racing team.
“There was no Bank of America trust account,” Milner said referring to this fact as the “critical lynchpin” in the state’s case.
Ibrahim’s attorney, Charles Woods, of Dallas, said they plan to show the jury evidence that his client’s motives were not based on deception, but rather a misunderstanding of his contractual obligations between Ibrahim and Richardson Sr.
“Throughout this time when the discussion started to until the deal fell apart in October of 2005 and we’re not sure here why the deal fell apart,” Woods said. “We’re still baffled by that, but nowhere in [the documents] is there mention of a trust account with Bank of America.”
After both sides chose a pool of four men and eight women for the jury, Milner raised concerns about Ibrahim’s real name. The indictment lists several names for the defendant including Malik Ibrahim, Abdulmalik Ado-Ibrahim, Malik Ado-Ibrahim, Malik Ibrahim and Prince Malik Ado-Ibrahim. Defense attorney Scott Palmer said they know his client as Malik Ibrahim, so 380th Judicial District Court Judge Charles Sandoval said the court would refer to him by that name for the trial.
The state opened its case by calling Richardson Sr. to the stand. He said he met Ibrahim back in April 2005 through a public relations representative for his racing company, Richardson Racing. He was trying to find an opportunity for his son to advance through the ranks of NASCAR, an interest he expressed while he played quarterback for Southern Methodist University.
Richardson Sr. said he met Ibrahim at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Ibrahim claimed he had been the owner of a Formula One racing team in Europe called Arrow Motorsports and was the son of a wealthy Nigerian king. Richardson Sr. said he saw nothing that could be considered inconsistent with his claims.
He later met Ibrahim at his office in California. Ibrahim told him he was interested in buying a car from another team sponsored by Tide and that the deal would be very attractive to other sponsors since Ibrahim would become the first black owner of a NASCAR team. Ibrahim also said Dodge and Chevrolet were competing for a chance to sponsor the team and build a race vehicle. He also wanted to take Richardson Jr., who now drives for Jay Robinson Racing, under his wing to get him some driving experience with a group of young drivers he referred to as his “Mavericks,” Richardson Sr. said.
All Richardson Sr. had to do was help him match some corporate sponsorships to the tune of about $1 million, $625,000 of which would be paid up front and the remainder to be paid at $31,500 a month for a year. The money would get his son into qualifying races for the Busch and Craftsman Series and go into a Bank of America trust account for sponsorship purposes.
“Racing isn’t something that you can learn unless you do it,” Richardson Sr. said. “The only way to get an opportunity is to fund a racing program.”
The two signed an agreement in May 2005 and Richardson Sr. said he wired the down payment to a Wachovia Bank account per Ibrahim’s instructions.
Richardson Sr. kept sending the money as promised, but little results followed, he said.
After several months, Maverick Motorsports failed to enter Richardson Jr. into any races. Richardson Sr. said he began to express concerns as the final three races loomed. He said he stopped payment on his ninth and final monthly payment.
Then in October 2005, Richardson Sr. said he confronted Ibrahim about their agreement in person. He hired a private investigator to confirm Ibrahim’s residence in California and brought two off-duty police officers to their surprise meeting for protection.
Richardson Sr. said Ibrahim looked shocked to see him.
He told Ibrahim he had “reason to believe” Ibrahim used his money to purchase a Rolls Royce. He also doubted a Bank of America account even existed, Richardson Sr. said.
Eventually, Ibrahim admitted there was no account. He assured him he still had every intention of helping his son and promised to show him the location of his money in a Wells Fargo bank account. When they went to the bank, they were met by Ibrahim’s attorney who proposed that if Ibrahim gave him all his money back, Richardson Sr. would promise not to seek criminal prosecution. The two agreed and even went to lunch together before Richardson Sr. returned to Texas the next day.
Richardson Sr. said he still hasn’t received the money. His phone calls with Ibrahim became “more heated” and Richardson Sr. said he would seek criminal prosecution despite their agreement.
“He told me it would not do any good to make idle threats against him about criminal prosecution for taking my money,” Richardson Sr. said. “He told me he didn’t know exactly the way we did things out in Texas, but it’s not how they do them in California. I said I don’t know how you do things out in California, but I’m fixing to show you how we do things here in Texas.”
Richardson Sr. said he asked Ibrahim one last time, “Where is my money?”
“He said, ‘I ate it, with ketchup,’” Richardson Sr. said, “‘and it was good.’”
Richardson Sr. said if he had the chance, he would have handled their agreement differently.
“In hindsight, I should have had an attorney review the documents I signed and verify there was a Bank of America trust account in Maverick Motorsports’ name,” Richardson Sr. said. “I got suckered. That’s the only way I know how to say it.”