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MyPayrollHR scandal leads to shuttering of basketball academy forcing students to find new schools

The payroll boss charged with swindling $70million and causing untold heartache to thousands of working Americans had another unlikely group of victims — some of the best basketball prodigies in the country.

Michael Mann — whose company MyPayrollHR shuttered suddenly three weeks ago leaving paychecks unpaid — has also been forced to close a school that attracted the brightest hoops hopes, DailyMail.com has learned in an exclusive investigation.

Now those high school boys have had to scramble to find other schools in their bid to keep their college and possible NBA dreams alive.

Mann, 49, pumped tens of thousands of dollars over three years into Lincoln Academy.

‘He was totally obsessed with the game,’ former employee Kristopher Gordon told DailyMail.com.

MyPayrollHR CEO Michael Mann founded Lincoln Academy for rising high school basketball stars in 2017. The school did not have its own campus and had been based at Winston Salem Christian School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina up until September 5 

The academy was known as one of the best schools for basketball prodigies who dream of playing college basketball and eventually, in the NBA. Tyler Bailey (pictured) was one of the state's top prospects but has been forced to find another school

Bryce McGowens (right) a 6ft 6in high-school junior, had already received offers from 14 Division 1 basketball programs but was only at the school for a month before it shut

The academy was known as one of the best schools for basketball prodigies who dream of playing college basketball and eventually, in the NBA. Tyler Bailey (left) was one of the state’s top prospects but has been forced to find another school. Bryce McGowens (right) a 6ft 6in high-school junior, had already received offers from 14 Division 1 basketball programs but was only at the school for a month before it shut

Mann is accused of creating fake companies to obtain up to $70 million in loans and lines of credit. He faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a $1million fine if found guilty of federal charges of bank fraud.  

He was released on $200,000 bond secured by his home and two cars and ordered to submit a DNA sample and surrender his passport when he appeared in US district court in Albany, New York, on Monday. 

His court appearance came a week after DailyMail.com exclusively reported an FBI raid on his luxury lakeside home in Edinburg, New York inside the Adirondack Park.

Mann founded Lincoln Academy, a high school for outstanding basketball prospects in 2017. It was originally based in Suwanee, Georgia, but moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina over the summer.

He paid tuition, board and lodging for his top players.

The school closed on September 5, the same day that MyPayrollHR shuttered its doors 700 miles north in Clifton Park, New York. AlwaysLive, an associated company that organized high school-age basketball tournaments ceased operations on the same day.

MyPayrollHR ceased operations without explanation on September 5, leaving thousands of workers nationwide without paychecks. CEO Michael Mann was charged with fraud on Monday

MyPayrollHR ceased operations without explanation on September 5, leaving thousands of workers nationwide without paychecks. CEO Michael Mann was charged with fraud on Monday

Following the school's closure, Bryce (right) had to return to Wren High School, close to his home in Pelzer, South Carolina

Following the school’s closure, Bryce (right) had to return to Wren High School, close to his home in Pelzer, South Carolina

‘Lincoln Academy’s assets were all frozen because of the situation with the payroll company,’ Bobby McGowens, the father of one of the school’s top prospects, told DailyMail.com.

‘It’s a shame. Lincoln Academy had a very good reputation.’

Lincoln Academy drew talented recruits after hiring former Cincinnati University associate head coach Larry Davis

Lincoln Academy drew talented recruits after hiring former Cincinnati University associate head coach Larry Davis  

McGowens’s son, Bryce, a 6ft 6in high-school junior, who has already received offers from 14 Division 1 basketball programs including Clemson, LSU, Xavier, and South Carolina, decided to transfer to Lincoln after Mann hired former Cincinnati University associate coach Larry Davis as head coach.

‘He wants to be ready to excel at the collegiate level,’ Bobby McGowens told the Greenville News after his son made the decision to move. 

‘It’s a chance to play for a coach with 38 years of coaching experience and prepare for the next level.

‘It was a chance too good to pass up.’

Davis, 63, resigned from Cincinatti after being accused of assaulting a man on a flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte in September 2017.

Bobby McGowens said Bryce was awarded a full scholarship to Lincoln Academy but was only at the school for a month before it folded.

Following the school’s closure, Bryce has had to return to Wren High School, close to his home in Pelzer, South Carolina.

Tyler Bailey, who has been described as one of North Carolina’s top basketball prospects has also had to find another school. The ninth grader picked Lincoln ‘just for a better challenge for me in basketball and academics,’ he told the Winston-Salem Chronicle.

Greg Williams, who was the executive director Lincoln Academy, is now out of a job thanks to the scandal - but told DailyMail.com Mann was a 'good guy'

Greg Williams, who was the executive director Lincoln Academy, is now out of a job thanks to the scandal – but told DailyMail.com Mann was a ‘good guy’ 

In its first two years Lincoln Academy was based at the Friendship Christian School in Suwanee, Georgia, but then moved to Winston Salem this year

In its first two years Lincoln Academy was based at the Friendship Christian School in Suwanee, Georgia, but then moved to Winston Salem this year

Lincoln Academy had no physical campus of its own. For its first two years it was based at the Friendship Christian School in Suwanee, Georgia, but then moved to hook up with Winston Salem Christian School this year.

Tuition at Friendship runs to $10,448 per year. At Winston Salem it is $6,150.

‘Their boys took academic classes with us, but they were not on our sports teams, they had their own,’ Pastor Vasily Lantukh, chairman of the board of the Georgia school told DailyMail.com.

‘We have our own basketball team and we didn’t mix the two.’

Brian Wolfe, head of Winston Salem Christian School, did not return repeated calls from DailyMail.com.

Lantukh said his school — which boasts of its ‘Christ-centered education’ — was approached by Lincoln Academy because it has several overseas students and has experience obtaining visas for them. 

In its first year the academy boasted players from Australia and the African country of Mali on its roster.

‘I don’t know why they moved, we had a good relationship with them. I hadn’t heard that they had closed,’ added Lantukh.

Greg Williams, executive director of both Lincoln Academy and AlwaysLive, said he made the decision to relocate to Winston-Salem as he lives in nearby High Point and would no longer have to commute to the Atlanta area.

‘But now I am out of a job,’ he told DailyMail.com at his home.

However, Williams did not blame Mann for the closure. ‘Mike Mann is a good guy,’ he said. 

Bryce McGowens was awarded a full scholarship to Lincoln Academy. Tuition at Winston Salem costs $6,150

Bryce McGowens was awarded a full scholarship to Lincoln Academy. Tuition at Winston Salem costs $6,150 

Myreon Jones, was one of Lincoln Academy's star players in its first season. He now plays for Penn State University

Myreon Jones, was one of Lincoln Academy’s star players in its first season. He now plays for Penn State University 

‘If you ask me, you should be asking Pioneer Bank why we are no longer in operation,’ he added, referring to the New York bank that claims it has been a victim of MyPayrollHR’s closure.

The Upstate New York-based bank — which has a branch right next door to MyPayrollHR’s office building — said it potentially stood to lose some $36million. 

Lincoln Academy started strong out of the gate. In its first year it finished with a record of 25-9. 

Myreon Jones, who now plays ball at Penn State, averaged 19 points per game in that inaugural season. Mann’s son, Mike Jr. was assistant coach.

‘I always felt that Mike Jr. didn’t have the passion for the game that his father did,’ said Gordon.

Brian Lippman, the original head coach, told Gwinnett Prep Sports: ‘Our players come from everywhere. Until the middle of February, we didn’t have a kid from the state of Georgia on the team. We recruit from all over.’

AlwaysLive organized high school basketball tournaments and provided video for players to use in college recruitment bids.

Gordon, AlwaysLive’s former south regional director told DailyMail.com the aim was to get 100 teams to a tournament each paying $350 to enter, raking in more than $300,000 in one weekend before expenses.

‘It was a good vision,’ said Gordon, who was fired when Williams came on board as the new man wanted to bring in his own team. ‘But they didn’t really have the experience.

‘They didn’t have any idea of the AAU world,’ he added referring to the Amateur Athletic Union,

Gordon said he had organized one tournament with 95 teams. ‘Not all of them paid though, because we were new and I was giving them deals to get them interested for the future,’ he said.

FBI agents raided Mann's secluded $500,000 mansion (pictured) on the banks of the Great Sacandaga Lake in Edinburg, New York, last Monday

FBI agents raided Mann’s secluded $500,000 mansion (pictured) on the banks of the Great Sacandaga Lake in Edinburg, New York, last Monday

Agents spent about an hour at the home. It is not believed that any arrests were made and it is unclear what investigators removed from the home

Agents spent about an hour at the home. It is not believed that any arrests were made and it is unclear what investigators removed from the home

An investigator (above) is seen outside Mann's home. Half a dozen law enforcement vehicles descended on the house in the tiny town of Edinburg, New York, around 4.30 pm

An investigator (above) is seen outside Mann’s home. Half a dozen law enforcement vehicles descended on the house in the tiny town of Edinburg, New York, around 4.30 pm

MyPayrollHR and its owner, ValueWise, operated from adjoining second-floor suites — numbers 220 and 240 — in a nondescript office building (above) in Clifton Park, New York

MyPayrollHR and its owner, ValueWise, operated from adjoining second-floor suites — numbers 220 and 240 — in a nondescript office building (above) in Clifton Park, New York

He described Mann as ‘a big teddy-bear of a man, perhaps 6ft. 3in. and totally obsessed with basketball.’ He said he and Mann went together to the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio in 2018.

An affidavit prepared by FBI Special Agent Matthew Wabby said Mann had admitted in interviews to running a long-standing scheme of ‘kiting’ checks — writing them on one account and depositing them in another in a bid to make out he had more money than he did.

The affidavit stated that Mann and his lawyer visited the office of the US Attorney for the Northern District on September 10 and ‘stated that he wished to accept responsibility for his conduct, and confess to a fraudulent scheme that he had been running for years’. 

Wabby said Mann started his fraud around 2010 or 2011 by creating companies that had no purpose other than to be used in his fraud.

‘He claimed that he committed the fraud in response to business and financial pressures, and that he used almost all of the fraudulently obtained funds to sustain certain business, and purchase and start new ones,’ wrote Wabby.

Neither Lincoln Academy nor AlwaysLive were mentioned in the affidavit.

Mann first came to attention when MyPayrollHR closed, leaving thousands of workers across the country without their bi-weekly paychecks. Later many found money had been taken from their bank accounts.

Mann’s attorney Michael Koenig, who has said his client is cooperating with the FBI investigation, did not return calls for comment.

Do you have a photo of Michael Mann? Email Martin.Gould@Mailonline.com

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk