Shaquille O’Neal cannot be served a summons electronically for a class-action lawsuit brought against FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and a host of celebrity spokespeople, a Florida judge ruled Tuesday. The plaintiff’s attorneys have unsuccessfully attempted to serve O’Neal in person for several months, court documents allege.
O’Neal is the only defendant in the class-action lawsuit who has not been served, attorneys alleged in a motion requesting permission to serve the “Inside the NBA” analyst electronically. The motion claims that a process server has attempted to serve O’Neal dozens of times at both his Texas and Georgia residences, and via mail to both the residences and his offices in Atlanta, where “Inside the NBA” is broadcast from.
Attorneys allege that the last time the process server attempted to serve O’Neal in Texas, he “was sent an ominous and threatening text message by O’Neal or someone acting on his behalf.” The message also claimed O’Neal lives in the Bahamas, which the law firm determined to be untrue, the motion states.
Attorneys requested they be allowed to serve O’Neal via direct message on his Twitter and Instagram pages, claiming that Texas law allows for electronic service in certain circumstances. But on Tuesday, District Judge K. Michael Moore, of the Southern District of Florida, denied the motion.
“Plaintiffs could, but did not, move to serve Defendant O’Neal under Florida law,” Moore wrote in his decision, adding that “Plaintiffs cite two cases, neither of which are binding in this district, where a court permitted service under the laws of another state.”
An attorney for the plaintiffs said in a statement Wednesday, “We have process servers right now, outside the TNT studios in Atlanta and they are trying to get to Shaquille O’Neal, but security is not letting them in. We will try every avenue to get Shaq served, while he broadcasts the playoffs this week. We take his veiled threats on our process server very seriously.”
As noted in the motion to serve O’Neal electronically, the four-time NBA champion has denied being involved in FTX beyond his sponsorship deal.
“A lot of people think I’m involved, but I was just a paid spokesperson for a commercial,” he said in an interview on CNBC after the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit, filed in the wake of the collapse of FTX, accuses Bankman-Fried, O’Neal and a host of other celebrities, including Tom Brady and Larry David, of defrauding investors.
The exchange shuffled customer money between affiliated entities, using new investor funds and loans to pay interest on old ones in an attempt “to maintain the appearance of liquidity,” Adam Moskowitz, the attorney leading the class action, previously said in an email to CBS News.
“FTX were geniuses at public relations and marketing, and knew that such a massive Ponzi scheme — larger than the Madoff scheme — could only be successful with the help and promotion of the most famous, respected, and beloved celebrities and influencers in the world,” he said.
— Kate Gibson contributed reporting.