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February 6, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Former Seahawk Sam Adams, business partner charged with theft and tax fraud

Former Seattle Seahawk Sam Adams was charged with multiple felony counts of theft and tax fraud this week for failing to pay nearly $450,000 in retail and sales taxes and tens of thousands of dollars more in wages and benefits to employees who worked at two athletic clubs Adams operated in Seattle and Tacoma.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Friday announced the 21 theft and tax fraud counts each against Adams, 41, and Dana Lynn Sargent, 43, the chief financial officer at Adams’ clubs.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Adams and Sargent “have made multiple attempts to evade tax liabilities resulting in a tax bill, as of January 21, 2015, of over $446,571.38.”

The charging papers also allege Adams and Sargent  have “failed to pay employees their deserved wages” and promised medical benefits, and failed to pay required unemployment insurance to the state.

“During the latter part of 2013 through January 2014, Adams’s and Sargent’s illegal actions have caused employees, through no fault of their own, to have countless insufficient fund checks that they were unable to cash which resulted in employees losing their housing, being unable to pay household bills, being unable to buy Christmas gifts and accruing thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills for themselves and their families,” the affidavit states.

In all, the unpaid wages and benefits to about 12 club workers amount to about $41,000 and the unpaid unemployment insurance totals about $35,000, Ferguson said.

Adams and Sargent are set to be arraigned on Feb. 18.

A man who answered the phone number registered to Adams’ Kirkland residence on Friday said he was unaware of any criminal charges when a reporter asked him for comment.

“I don’t know anything about that,” he said. “I’m going to have to call you back on that.”

Sargent could not be immediately reached for comment as of noon Friday.

Selected by the Seahawks as the eighth overall pick in the 1994 NFL, Adams, a 6-foot-3, 350-pounder from Texas A&M, played defensive tackle for Seattle through the 1999 season. As a Seahawk, he earned a Pro Bowl selection in 1997.  Adams signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000, helping that team win Super Bowl XXXV. During 14 NFL seasons with six teams, he earned three Pro Bowl selections and won All-Pro honors twice. His NFL career ended in 2007.

In recent years, Adams has operated at least six athletic clubs – four in Oregon and two in Washington, according to charging papers. The charges announced Friday involved Adams’ two Washington clubs — the West Seattle Athletic Club in Seattle and the Lincoln Plaza Athletic Club in Tacoma.

Both of the Washington clubs have since been closed, Ferguson said.

Some of the charges announced Friday carry aggravated factors, meaning prosecutors can pursue a harsher sentence than standard should the defendants be convicted, Ferguson said.

“We’re seeking restitution for all of the victims,” Ferguson added, including the state and former workers of Adams’ clubs.

Assistant Attorney General Scott Marlow said Friday he’s “aware there are issues with the Oregon clubs,” as well. But Marlow added he personally knew of no investigation in that state and referred reporters to contact Oregon authorities.  A spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Justice said she wasn’t immediately aware of an active investigation involving Adams’ clubs in that state.

The charges against Adams and Sargent mark only the second time Washington state has filed a criminal wage-theft case, Ferguson said. Such cases are widespread and typically handled at the local level, he said, but they can be difficult to prosecute because victims often are reluctant to come forward for fear of retaliation or due to their immigration status.

Ferguson said his office won’t ask anyone complaining of wage theft about immigration issues.

“If you cheat the workers and the state,” he said, “my office will hold you accountable.”


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