Developer convicted of fraud in Hartford, CT soccer stadium debacle
- A Connecticut jury on Thursday found businessman James C. Duckett Jr. guilty on 13 counts of fraud-related charges in connection with the failed redevelopment of a downtown Hartford, CT, baseball park into a Major Arena Soccer League stadium, according to the Hartford Courant.
- Premier Sports Management Group, a company owned by Duckett's business partner, signed a contract with the city in 2014 to redevelop Dillon Stadium, but prosecutors said Duckett diverted city money, which was meant to pay subcontractors, into his own personal bank accounts and also billed the city for work that was never performed.
- The head of Premier, Mitchell Anderson, pleaded guilty in February to two counts related to the case and agreed to testify against Duckett. Anderson faces the possibility of 37 months in prison and a fine of up to $1 million, while Duckett also awaits sentencing.
The city was ready to sign a decades-long lease with Duckett and Anderson but backed out after a Courant investigation revealed that Duckett had previously been convicted of embezzlement and had several outstanding legal judgments against him.
The soccer team — Hartford City FC — that was supposed to play at the revamped stadium was dropped by the MLS once the organization got wind of the criminal investigation.
Hartford also ran into sports venue-related trouble last year when the bonding company on the $71 million Dunkin Donuts Park baseball stadium had to take over construction after claims of questionable workmanship and delays. The surety company replaced the contractors on the city-financed project with Baltimore's Whiting-Turner Contracting.
Because of the delays, the Hartford Yard Goats, the Double-A minor league baseball team that makes their home at the stadium, played last season on the road. However, the stadium is now open, and the team just finished out half of their first season at the new ballpark. The original contractor, Centerplan Construction Co., and developer DoNo Hartford are suing the city of Hartford for wrongful termination.
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