A former business manager who embezzled more than $1.5 million from …

A former business manager who embezzled more than $1.5 million from National Basketball Association star Mark Jackson pleaded guilty this morning to federal wire fraud charges.

Bruce J. Breger, 41, of Thousand Oaks, pleaded guilty in United States District Court in Los Angeles to one count of wire fraud.

Breger was named last year in a criminal complaint charging him with two counts of wire fraud in connection with the theft from Jackson, a 16-year NBA veteran who is playing this season for the Houston Rockets.

Breger was originally hired by Jackson in 1993 to manage Jackson’s financial affairs, including balancing Jackson’s checking account, paying his bills and providing Jackson with investment advice. Breger was able to embezzle the funds by fraudulently transferring money from Jackson’s bank account at City National Bank in Westwood, California to bank accounts that Breger controlled both inside and outside of City National.

In some cases, Breger was able to access Jackson’s accounts by faxing to City National altered authorization forms containing Jackson’s signature that had been used in connection with prior legitimate transfers. When City National employees called to confirm the transfers, Breger misrepresented that the transfers had been authorized by Jackson.

In order to conceal the fraud, Breger had account statements for the Jackson City National account directed to the offices of his company, Breger Management Group. Breger also periodically sent Jackson account statements on BMG letterhead summarizing Jackson’s assets under management at BMG. At no time did these statements disclose any of the unauthorized transfers.

Breger used the money for his own purposes, including frequent gambling trips to Las Vegas.

Jackson fired Breger after being tipped off that there were irregularities in Jackson’s account, and after Jackson hired a forensic accountant to investigate the alleged embezzlement.

Breger is scheduled to be sentenced on April 19 by the United States District Court Judge Percy Anderson. At sentencing, Breger faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and he will have to pay restitution to Jackson.

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