But when the magazine dissolved, Du Pont was willing to put money into Mathison's second attempt at an Atlanta publication, this one called simply Avid. Du Pont says he flew out several times to Atlanta in 2006 and 2007 to survey Mathison's operation.

"He had a team, he had a website," Du Pont recalls. "I thought he was a great salesman, that he would hustle and make this happen."

Yet the magazine foundered. The real-estate market was tanking too, and Du Pont's financial manager was looking more closely at his expenses. She noticed charges on his Citibank credit card for airline tickets to and from Atlanta. Some tickets were mailed to Mathison in paper form, then returned at the airport for a cash refund.

Co-publishers Suzanne and Bobby Keppel at The 9s launch party in St. Charles.
Steve Truesdell
Co-publishers Suzanne and Bobby Keppel at The 9s launch party in St. Charles.
Matt Holliday on the cover of The 9s first issue.
Steve Truesdell
Matt Holliday on the cover of The 9s first issue.

This befuddled Du Pont, who swears he'd never given credit-card info to Mathison. (Mathison insists that he had.)

Du Pont says he spent fifteen months trying to "rectify the absolute nightmare" of $34,000 in what he considers fraudulent credit-card charges. All told, Du Pont estimates he invested more than $400,000 in Mathison's ventures in Atlanta.

"I'm a big boy," Du Pont says. "I've lost fifteen to twenty times that in real estate since 2007. It's not that $400,000 isn't a chunk of change. It is. But I'm telling you all this because I don't want anyone to get hurt again."

Du Pont says he approached authorities in California and Texas about pressing charges against Mathison. But ultimately, he gave up — partly because he had bigger worries in real estate, and partly because Mathison was already facing punishment for something else.

In late 2008, Mathison was arrested and charged in Tarrant County, Texas, with having embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from Bentwaters Construction, a firm where he had worked during the early 2000s. He spent 43 days in jail during the proceedings.

Court records show that Mathison felt justified in taking the money because he believed he was owed commissions from the company's CEO, Jon Aubrey. Nonetheless, Mathison ended up pleading guilty to felony theft of property. The trial judge put him on ten years' probation, and ordered him to pay $193,700 in restitution. Mathison challenged that amount, but a Texas appeals court upheld it.

But it wasn't just CEOs the likes of Jon Aubrey and Mark Du Pont who felt burned. Smaller players also got stiffed.

Patrick Coulson was the founder of GolfBuzz.com. All told, Coulson says, GolfBuzz billed $30,000 worth of work to Mathison's second magazine, but only collected a third of it. Over and over, Mathison insisted he'd already shipped payment. And over and over, he blamed the shipping carrier when it failed to arrive.

After months of dodging, Mathison finally wrote Coulson a breathless e-mail in August 2007.

"My apologies for just getting back to you," Mathison wrote. "I flew out to Houston first thing this morning to be with my sister. Her husband (age 31) had a stroke late last night." Things were so bleak, Mathison wrote, his mother and stepfather had chartered a helicopter to return early from an Alaskan cruise. "It's a mess."

Mathison now admits to RFT that this family-tragedy story was "an atrocious lie."

Says Coulson: "Matt's actually quite charming. And if he put his mind to positive use, he'd actually be pretty decent. But you can't take anything he tells you as the truth."

As Mathison was attempting to start — and restart — his publishing career in Atlanta, Bobby Keppel was doing the same in baseball.

Back in high school, when major-league scouts outnumbered the spectators at some of his games, Keppel kept a smiley-face sticker inside his ball cap. It would help him stay relaxed during tense moments. It worked: The seventeen-year-old led De Smet to a state title in 2000, then earned a $1 million signing bonus a few weeks later when the New York Mets swooped him up as the 36th overall pick in the draft. But by the spring of 2006, the six-foot-five-inch Keppel had trouble summoning the confidence he'd shown as a teen.

He now wore the uniform of the Kansas City Royals. And despite getting called up to the majors for the first time with the KC club, he struggled to make a mark on one of the worst teams in baseball.

He remembers thinking: "If I can't make it with them, what am I doing here?"

After compiling an 0-4 record with the Royals, Keppel was demoted to the minor leagues. There, he fell into a brief Internet gambling addiction.

"I felt like it was a way to finally control my life and provide a lifestyle that I had encountered in the major leagues," he says. "But after a series of losses and sleepless nights I finally confessed to my fiancée."

With Suzanne's help and patience, Keppel eventually conquered his demons. "She had the opportunity to say, 'I'm done with you,'" Keppel says. "But she took the time to see it through with me."

Suzanne's belief in him when he was at his lowest now has Keppel believing in second chances — for himself and for others.

After a year in Kansas City, Keppel had short stints with the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins organizations. His best season came in 2009 when he pitched 54 relief innings for the Twins and compiled a respectable 4.83 ERA. In 2010 he took a gamble by agreeing to play in Japan — a country where other MLB players have honed their skills and returned to form.

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