NCAA investigation of Miami scandal flagged for misconduct

  • Thursday, January 24, 2013

This image from Sept. 2003 video shows Miami booster Nevin Shapiro gesturing on the field at an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida, in Miami, Fla. The NCAA's probe of Miami's athletic compliance practices is ramping up yet again. Only this time, the Hurricanes aren't exactly the subject of the inquiry. The NCAA itself is being investigated after NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged on Jan. 23 "a very severe issue of improper conduct" by former investigators working the long, complex Miami case. [AP Photo/WFOR/CBS4]

MIAMI — Sounding very much like an NCAA investigator, the attorney for Nevin Shapiro sat across the table from former Miami equipment manager Sean Allen and peppered him with dozens of questions about alleged NCAA rules violations involving the University of Miami.

In the process of that deposition 13 months ago, attorney Maria Elena Perez extracted considerable incriminating information against Miami — information Allen has said he never would have disclosed if he had not been under oath.

The deposition was taken under the auspices of a bankruptcy court hearing — a proceeding designed to recoup money that Shapiro took from investors in a $900 million Ponzi scheme that led to Shapiro being sentenced to a 20-year jail term.

But, a review of the deposition on Wednesday revealed that many of Perez’s questions had nothing to do with financial issues, and dozens had more to do with alleged violations by Miami than any attempts to trace money that could be recouped.

That deposition with Allen — and another Perez deposition with former sports agent Michael Huyghue — likely will be removed from the NCAA’s evidence against Miami presuming an NCAA investigation confirms its belief that the information was improperly obtained, NCAA president Mark Emmert indicated Wednesday.

Perez submitted a bill to the NCAA — which the NCAA would consider a conflict because she was representing Shapiro.

What’s potentially problematic for Miami, however, is Allen met with the NCAA after that deposition and was asked to recap and confirm allegations that he made during the deposition. It’s unclear if Allen’s responses during that interview will be used.

Allen met with the NCAA in August 2011 but previously told The Miami Herald that he was not truthful during that meeting. He said he was truthful during the deposition only because he was under oath.

Among the highlights of what Allen told Perez in the deposition, which Allen said was attended by an NCAA official:

Asked by Perez if he ever witnessed Shapiro paying money to Miami football or basketball players, Allen said: “Yes. I don’t remember the specifics. It was relatively small amounts ... low hundreds.”

He also said: “I vaguely remember Nevin giving (former Miami running back) Tyrone Moss some sort of money for his baby or something like that.”

Allen said Shapiro gave him $3,000 to entertain Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Andre Debose during an unofficial recruiting visit to Miami. “Nevin said, ‘Take those guys out to a strip club and make sure they have a good time,’” Allen said. Armstrong and Dye ultimately attended Miami; Debose went to Florida.

Allen said he gave money to Miami players who were being recruited by Axcess Sports, an agency co-owned by Shapiro and Huyghue. Allen confirmed those players included Tavares Gooden, Jon Beason and Devin Hester. “We’re talking small amounts of cash, maybe $50 here, because it was my own money.”

Asked Shapiro’s motivation in giving players money, Allen said: “One, I think he enjoyed being around them. The other part is he ultimately wanted them to sign with Axcess Sports.”

Allen, who worked for Axcess, said he brought Miami players to Shapiro on behalf of Axcess, including Gooden, Hester and Kyle Wright. “I’m sure I’m missing someone. It was more bringing them around Nevin, and he was the one that would talk to them about that sort of stuff.”

Allen told Perez that Shapiro would give money to the winners of bowling events at Lucky Strikes on Miami Beach, and Miami players participated in those tournaments.

Asked if he ever took players to Shapiro’s suite, Allen said: “Yes, one time that I remember: Jeffrey Godfrey and I believe Teddy Bridgewater was with him.” Both were high school players at the time, and neither attended Miami.

“Miami was never serious about (Godfrey),” Allen said. “Jeff and I were at Nevin’s house one time, and I remember Nevin giving him a pair of old white used sneakers. I want to say Nevin gave me $100 or something and said, ‘Go out to eat.”

Allen said he took Bridgewater to meet with Miami coach Al Golden soon after Golden took the job.

Allen said he “can say with certainty that Nevin paid” for meals and a strip club outing with basketball coach Frank Haith and assistant Jake Morton.

Perez repeatedly pressed Allen after he said he had no recollection of giving or witnessing Shapiro giving Morton $10,000, money that Shapiro claimed was ultimately to be forwarded to a family member of basketball player DeQuan Jones.

“I don’t want to trick you,” Perez said at one point. “I just want to understand what you’re saying.” Allen said: “I don’t remember doing it ... Possible it could have happened. I just really don’t remember.”

Allen told Perez that Shapiro “had me take (former Miami quarterback) Robert Marve to look at Escalades; Robert was paying for it.” He also said he saw former Miami defensive back Randy Phillips at Shapiro’s home “multiple times.”

The deposition with Huyghue did not produce any significant incriminating information against Miami, according to a Herald analysis of the document.

Gary Freedman, a partner in the firm that is serving as the bankruptcy trustee in the case, said he was not aware that Perez was allegedly being paid by the NCAA until the news broke Wednesday.

“That was a shock to me,” he said. “I assumed anything she was doing was being done for the benefit of the client. (Allen and Huyghue) could have objected to the subpoena. I don’t believe they did.”

Freedman said the depositions with Allen and Huyghue were the only ones Perez conducted and “we have not used the transcripts to try to recover money. We haven’t found the need.” The trustee has recouped $35 million in the case, Freedman said.

Though Freedman and partner Joel Tabas were aware the depositions were conducted, Freedman said Perez did not need their permission to do them.

He said in the Southern District of Florida, attorneys can issue subpoenas in bankruptcy court without the court’s permission. “Maria was representing Nevin,” Freedman said. “She wasn’t representing us.”

Asked if what Perez did was wrong, Freedman said: “I don’t know. I don’t know the agreement she had with her client or the NCAA. It wasn’t on my radar screen. As far as getting mad, it doesn’t affect anything we’re doing. (But) it could be a distraction.”

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