A former Ohio State football player was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost of the Southern District of Ohio to seven years in prison for his role in a scheme to bilk investors of his company out of millions of dollars.
Preston J. Harrison, 43, of Lewis Center, was convicted by a federal jury in March of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering.
A business partner, Thomas E. Jackson, 40, of Powell, was convicted of the same charges and faces sentencing in October.
Harrison’s wife, Lovena, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by filing a false tax return and one count of structuring financial transactions to evade currency reporting requirements.
She was sentenced to serve a federal prison term for one year and one day. Both Harrisons are required to pay the IRS about $376,000 in restitution.
Harrison is is also required to pay $8.8 million in restitution to the victims of his fraud.
“The sentences imposed today reflect the department’s commitment to investigating and vigorously prosecuting individuals who defraud investors, misappropriate funds to finance lavish lifestyles and file false tax returns to conceal their ill-gotten gains,” acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo said in a press release. “Like the Harrisons, those who engage in such conduct will pay a heavy price.”
Federal prosecutors say Harrison and Jackson misled investors to believe their product, OXYwater, was a “lucrative and profitable financial investment,” when in reality the company failed to generate a profit.
Harrison and Jackson were able to conceal the company’s failure by falsifying sales figures. They also misled investors about their salaries, the oxygen content of the product, sports drink expertise on staff and the use of the capital.
The two managed to raise about $9 million before the company filed for bankruptcy with no assets.
More than $2 million of the money went toward personal use, including the purchase of jewelry, clothing, vehicles, weapons and a swimming pool, the indictment says.
“Preston Harrison and his co-conspirators made OXYwater appear to be a lucrative and profitable financial investment, touting investments and endorsements from athletes, a musician and others,” U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart said in a press release. “After they convinced folks to invest, they misappropriated that money to fuel their own lavish lifestyle, buying items like jewelry, luxury vehicles, weapons and swimming pools.”
The Harrisons are also accused of funneling some of the money into Lovena Harrison’s daycare business, which was not disclosed on the couple’s 2011 income tax return.
Preston Harrison played linebacker at Ohio State University from 1992 to 1995. He was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 98th pick in the 1995 NFL draft, but did not play a game in the league.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.