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Roscoe Tanner Jailed in Florida

August 06, 2003|Richard Luscombe | Special to The Times

MIAMI — Roscoe Tanner, the former Australian Open tennis champion, was in jail in Florida on Tuesday after being extradited on a fraud charge from Germany, where he avoided authorities for a year.

The 1979 Wimbledon finalist, who once boasted a 153-mph serve, is alleged to have cheated a Tampa yacht broker out of more than $35,000 on the purchase of a boat two years ago, then bounced a repayment check on a $10,000 loan secured on the boat's title.

Tanner, 51, fled to Europe in the spring of 2002 after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office issued an arrest warrant. He also faces prosecution in New Jersey for an alleged failure to pay more than $82,000 in child support.

"He is being held as a fugitive, which means that even if he made bail on the local charges, he cannot be released until after the New Jersey issue has been dealt with," said Jim Hellickson, an assistant state attorney of Pinellas County.

Tanner's extradition, which has taken nearly nine months, continues a humiliating fall from grace for a player who thrilled fans with his booming serve and won more than $1.7 million in a 15-year career that brought 11 singles titles.

He won the 1977 Australian Open and lost to Bjorn Borg in a thrilling five-set Wimbledon final two years later.

Since retiring in 1984, he has had a number of failed business ventures, and spent two short spells in prison, in Florida in 1997 and Georgia in 2001, for failing to make child support payments. The Tennessee-born Tanner has two daughters living with his first wife in Los Angeles. A New Jersey woman says he also fathered her daughter.

Tanner is in the Pinellas County Jail in Treasure Island, Fla., and is scheduled to be arraigned in two weeks. The Pinellas County public defender's office is representing him.

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