Former NBA forward Chris Gatling gets plea deal in Paradise Valley squatting case


gatling-dallas-mavericksA former NBA player, forward Chris Gatling is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, Oct. 4, after pleading guilty to one count of forgery and one count of theft in Maricopa County Superior Court, AzCentral reported.

In August, Chris Gatling accepted an agreement to plead guilty to those counts, requiring him to serve a term of supervised probation and pay restitution to his victims, said Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

The exact amount will be specified at the sentencing, he said.

The charges stemmed from accusations that Gatling, 46, lived as a squatter in a four-bedroom Paradise Valley house for about a year and then tried to rent it out.

Initially, the 6-foot-10 former All-Star and 10-year veteran of the league was charged with two counts of theft and forgery, one count of taking the identity of another and one count of fraud.

Initial charges came from evidence that led authorities to believe that Gatling lived in the house in the 6500 block of North 63rd Place from July 2010 to August 2011, without the consent of the owner, Priscilla Jones, who has since sold the home.

Records show that during that time, Gatling obtained an Arizona driver’s license using the residence as his home address.

In July 2011, Gatling also attempted to rent out the property and signed a rental agreement with prospective tenant Stacey Ezel. He cashed her two cashier’s checks before she and the homeowner discovered that Gatling was living there illegally, according to a police report.

The cashier’s checks were $800 for first month’s rent and $800 for the security deposit.

According to the report, Ezel responded to an ad on Craigslist, which read: “$800/4 br – EX NBA – Paradise Valley Home for rent with Pool & Utility included. … Going back to Miami, Mexico City, Italy for a year or 2 need someone to watch my home here in PV and what a great place, close to everything and Very Very Quite! Really looking for a Woman, but guys can feel free to contact as well … (Just Like a Women’s touch).”

Ezel signed the lease agreement, but Gatling never gave her the keys to the house. Consequently, she researched the property on the county assessor’s website and contacted Jones, who was living in California at the time, records show.

A report indicates that in June 2010, after being referred by an acquaintance of the owner, Gatling contacted the owner looking to rent the home but never finalized a lease agreement because of poor credit. Gatling is accused of later breaking into a key lock box to gain access to the residence, which was furnished with running utilities, according to records.

Officials said a four-bedroom, single-family residence in Paradise Valley with a pool and guest house could rent for more than $2,000 a month, causing a loss of as much as $25,000 to the homeowner.

Initially, authorities charged Gatling with forgery, alleging that he forged and cashed two checks totaling $1,800 belonging to then-girlfriend Julie David a few months after she lived in the house with him. The checks were written to College Bound All-Stars, a traveling youth basketball league that Gatling owned and operated.

The report said David lived in the house with Gatling from July 2010 to May 2011, and she believed he lived there legally.

On Aug. 1, Gatling accepted an agreement, pleading guilty to one count of forgery and one count of theft.

Gatling’s NBA career began in 1991 after he was traded by the 76ers as a first round draft pick out of Old Dominion – to the Warriors for Manute Bol.

During his NBA days, Gatling did set a few records. He was named to the Western Conference All-Star team in 1997 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

He led the NBA in field goal percentage (63 percent) during the 1994-95 season, and played 85 games during the 1999-00 season (while all teams normally play 82 games). Gatling averaged career high 19 ppg during the 1996-97 season.

During his career, he played for Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, and Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 6’10 backup forward played a total of 700 games in the league (86 started), averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebound per game over his career.

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