Ex-football team owner bilked locals, police allege

kt logoA Lake Katrine man is facing felony charges — accused of using his former position as a part-owner of a local semi-pro football team to bilk two area residents out of thousands of dollars. Now, police and prosecutors are trying to determine if there are additional victims.

Mark S. English was arrested by state police on Dec. 29 and charged with felony second- and third-degree grand larceny and felony first-degree scheme to defraud. English, 51, founded the short-lived North American Football League franchise, the Hudson Valley Saints, back in 2005 and ran it until 2007 when, according to published reports, the team, on the verge of financial collapse with three games left in the season, passed into the hands of Colonial Motor Cars owner Andrew Murphy. Murphy later sold the team which, after a series of name and ownership changes, folded for good in 2009.

Police and prosecutors have declined to discuss details of the case except to say that the alleged crimes occurred during English’s tenure as owner of the Saints and involved a Kingston woman who lost over $50,000 and a Town of Ulster man who lost over $3,000. Ulster County Assistant District Attorney Joshua Povill said that the prosecution came about because a female victim of the alleged scam came forward. Povill added that he believes there could be other victims who have kept quiet out of embarrassment.

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“There were a lot of people who had dealings with Mark English,” said Povill. “And Mark English turned out to be not as advertised.”

While authorities are keeping quiet about the case, civil court records show that English’s stint as team owner was marked by allegations of unpaid debts and outright fraud amounting to nearly $400,000. One lawsuit, filed by a Kingston woman in December 2007, alleges that over the course of 2006 English obtained a series of promissory notes, some in the name of the Hudson Valley Saints, from her totaling $273,988. The loans, which in addition to cash included a $25,000 investment in a Texas technology company, drained the woman’s savings and left her deeply in debt. The woman claimed that English made repeated excuses for his failure to repay the notes and obtained further loans by telling her that he needed money to invest so that he could pay her back.

“Mark continually gave me updates as to the various sponsors that he was approaching, people who were helping him make those connections, friends, family people at church, board members, etc.,” the woman claimed in the 2007 lawsuit. “It is easy to see that he was playing me for a sucker but, at the time, he was very convincing.”

A second lawsuit filed in October 2007 involves Murphy, who would become for a short time the team’s owner. According to the lawsuit, in early 2007 Murphy advanced English $47,495 with the understanding that he would repay at least $20,000 by July 2007. As part of the agreement, English put up a 55 percent ownership stake in the Saints as collateral. The loan, the lawsuit alleges, was never repaid. Reached by phone Murphy emphatically declined to discuss the charges against English, he did, however confirm that he was in contact with state police and the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office regarding the case.

Mark English, seen here in a 2005 file photo. (Steve Hopkins)

Mark English, seen here in a 2005 file photo. (Steve Hopkins)

English appears to have left the area some time after 2007. According to Povill, prosecutors intend to invoke the “tolling provision” of New YorkState law, which stops the clock on the five-year statute of limitations on most felonies in cases where the accused’s whereabouts are unknown.

English was arraigned in Hurley Town Court and sent to the Ulster County Jail on $5,000 bail. State police investigators are also looking for additional information or victims in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call state police at (845) 338-1702.

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