Â© Copyright 2008, The Oklahoman Former Sooner basketball star Eduardo Najera says he is a lot less trusting these days since losing more than $230,000 helping an Oklahoma landscaper he once considered a friend. Najera, an NBA player who has a home in Edmond, alleges in a lawsuit he is the victim of a scam. "Thank God, I'm making a lot of money,” said Najera, who moved in July from the Denver Nuggets to the New Jersey Nets. "I don't know where the money went,” Najera said Friday. "Now, the sad thing is that it is really hard for me to trust — in terms of business — it's hard for me to trust different people. They have great opportunities out there. Because of this experience, I might say no to all their business opportunities.” Najera and his wife, Jennifer, on Aug. 14 won a $232,763 judgment against the landscaper's business after no one responded to their lawsuit. Others also have made accusations and won judgments in court against the landscaper, Jeffrey James Sanders, or his business, Landscapes Unlimited of Oklahoma. One group of investors alleged Sanders misused their funds to pay other creditors. They have won a $135,587 judgment against him, plus another $18,311 in attorney fees. Sanders, 40, of Edmond has admitted in bankruptcy court he owes almost $1.75 million to Najera and more than two dozen others. His attorney in the bankruptcy case quit because Sanders didn't pay him. Sanders pleaded guilty to arson in Texas in 2004. He was charged in 2006 in Oklahoma County with making false statements on a credit application. The misdemeanor charge was dropped after he made restitution, his attorney, Scott Adams, said.
Denying the allegationsIn a brief phone conversation, Sanders denied he conned anyone who lost money. "It wasn't deliberately,” Sanders said. "There were several things that happened on a couple of key jobs. So, it wasn't anything intentional. ... Just some jobs, different things happened on them, either our fault or not our fault.” Sanders would not talk about his charge in Texas. "That was in the past,” he said. He said his landscaping business is still going. Najera said he met Sanders in church in Dallas years ago when he played for the Dallas Mavericks. "He started hanging out with me,” Najera said, "He's a very likeable guy — a guy who uses everything in his power to get to you, to get your confidence.” He said Sanders pretended to be a Sooner supporter. He recalled how Sanders just showed up at his house one time to do landscaping for free. Najera said he paid Sanders for the landscaping work instead. Najera in 2006 loaned Sanders' business $125,000 for landscaping jobs. Najera was not repaid $36,400 of that loan. Najera last year guaranteed a $189,133 bank loan to Sanders' business. Sanders didn't repay the bank loan so Najera had to take care of it and interest. Najera said he sued to expose Sanders. "I believe he never had the jobs,” Najera said. He said he also has refused offers of repayment of $1,000 a month. Najera said, "I figured out ... this guy's trying to play somebody else so he can pay me off and I don't want the money that way. "‘I always gave him the benefit of the doubt,” Najera said. "It was kind of dumb.” Sanders countered, "There's a whole lot more history there than what you're hearing.”