Marion Jones caught using steroids… thanks to check fraud ring

For years, runner Marion Jones denied ever using steroids. She even went so far as to sue Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO, after he said that he saw her use steroids.

On Friday, Jones pleaded guilty to two felony counts of lying to federal investigators. She then faced the media:

“I stand before you to tell you that I have betrayed your trust.”

On Monday, Jones returned her Olympic medals.

She claims that her trainer, Trevor Graham, gave her something he called flaxseed oil. She says she took it orally. It was really tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), which is a steroid developed and distributed by BALCO and known as “the clear.” Jones used the clear during the 2000 Syndey Olympic Games.

After a 2003 raid of BALCO, Jones was linked to steroid use. When questioned by investigators, she denied ever using steroids. She now admits that she was lying.

But the real break in the case against her came because of a check fraud ring. Marion’s ex-boyfriend, Tim Montgomery was the first of the two to be caught partaking in the check forgery scheme. They became involved in 2005, when a drug dealer told them they could make easy money by cashing some big checks for some of his associates. Montgomery made at least $20,000 from cashing these checks, which turned out to be from a ring of check counterfeiters.

Montgomery recruited others to help cash the checks, including his track coach Steve Riddick and his agent Charles Wells. Marion deposited a $25,000 check into her bank account. The check fraud scheme was quickly discovered by bank investigators.

But it looked at first like Marion might escape prosecution. When criminal charges were filed against Montgomery and several others, Marion Jones was not named. Her name was even excluded from court records, and she was just referred to as a “close associate of Timothy Montgomery.”

Montgomery pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy, and could get up to three years in prison. Wells pleaded guilty to bank fraud. Riddick was convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering in May. Marion’s time finally came, and the result was Friday’s guilty plea.

Marion’s guilty plea could get her a maximum of 10 years in prison, 6 years on parole, and $500,000 in fines. However, the prosecutors have agreed to a sentencing agreement that would mean Jones would serve zero to six months in jail. The judge isn’t required to abide by the agreement, though.

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