NFL linebacker and Fresno native Mychal Kendricks has been dropped by the Cleveland Browns after being charged with insider trading

ByRicky Courtney KFSN logo
Thursday, August 30, 2018
NFL linebacker Kendricks dropped by Browns after insider trading charge
Kendricks has been charged with using insider trading tips to make about $1.2 million in profits on major trading deals, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

PHILADELPHIA (KFSN) -- The Cleveland Browns have released linebacker Mychal Kendricks after federal prosecutors announced that he was involved in an insider trading scheme.

The Fresno native and Hoover High graduate stands accused of using insider trading tips from an acquaintance to make about $1.2 million in illegal profits on four major trading deals.

Co-defendant Damilare Sonoiki was paid $10,000 in kickbacks in the scheme from 2014-2015, as well as perks like tickets to Philadelphia Eagles games and tagging along to a music video shoot or nightclub appearances, said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. Kendricks won the Super Bowl with the Eagles last season before signing with the Browns in June.

Sonoiki had been working as a junior analyst at an unnamed investment bank in New York, prosecutors said. An IMDB profile lists him as a former writer on the popular TV series "Black-ish" as well as other movies and TV shows.

In a statement released by his lawyer Wednesday, Kendricks said he was sorry and takes full responsibility for his actions.

"While I didn't fully understand all of the details of the illegal trades, I knew it was wrong, and I wholeheartedly regret my actions," he said in the statement. He also claimed he didn't take any of the profits for himself but didn't elaborate on where the money went.

"I am committed to repaying all of the funds gained illegally and accept the consequences of my actions," he said.

Kendricks said he has been cooperating with authorities since the investigation began.

The Browns say that team officials did not know the extent of Kendricks' involvement in the federal investigation when they signed him to a one-year, $2.25 million contract. The team was also under the impression that Kendricks was not the focus of the probe or had done anything illegal.

They say that after being updated on the facts of the case, team leaders decided to release Kendricks.

Kendricks was to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

McSwain along with representatives from the FBI and the Securities Exchange Commission - which filed a separate complaint - said Kendricks and Sonoiki used coded language in messages to try to hide their actions. McSwain noted that Sonoiki, who had limited trading powers at the time, would give non-public information to Kendricks about acquisitions and other deals that would affect the price of securities for at least four different companies.

Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement, said in one message when Sonoiki was asking for payment, he told Kendricks that he liked Philadelphia bread used in cheesesteaks more than the bread in New York and asked that Kendricks bring him some.

They also had a conversation pretending to be talking about changing the number on Kendricks' jersey to 80, meant to signify the amount of money that should be deposited into a new trading account, she said.

If the men are convicted, they could face up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $5.25 million as well as the seizure of any profits made from the insider trading.

The Browns signed Kendricks as a free agent in June, bringing on the Super Bowl winner to upgrade their linebacker corps following a 0-16 season. Kendricks spent six years with the Eagles, who drafted him in the second round in 2012 after he played at California.

The 5-foot-11, 240-pounder recorded a team-high eight tackles in last season's NFC Championship against Minnesota and had four in Philadelphia's Super Bowl win.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.