Agent paid players to sign deals
Published 11:18 pm Sunday, July 19, 2015
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) — Newly unsealed documents in the case of a former college football player charged with violating North Carolina’s sports agent law suggest he funneled money to multiple Tar Heels players and set up meetings with agents and financial advisers trying to sign them to contracts.
Christopher Hawkins was arrested in May for providing former player Robert Quinn thousands of dollars and helping him sell game-used equipment in 2010, along with improperly contacting a UNC player in 2013 to talk about representation.
According to five search warrants unsealed Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press, Hawkins acted as “an agent/runner” by befriending other athletes, providing illegal improper benefits and brokering meetings with agents and advisers despite not being registered as required by law.
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The search warrants from the past year sought records for financial and online accounts for the former UNC and Marshall player in a 5-year-old Secretary of State’s investigation, which began amid a 2010 NCAA probe into UNC’s football program. Hawkins was barred from school athletes and facilities that year and is one of five charged.
Fourteen Tar Heels missed at least one game in 2010 and seven were forced to sit all season in a case that led to NCAA sanctions in March 2012.
Both probes focused largely on ex-players Quinn, Marvin Austin and Greg Little. But roughly 75 pages of unsealed documents include other examples, including ex-player Kendric Burney telling investigators in October 2013 that he received monthly payments from Hawkins while an eligible athlete.
Burney, who missed six games in 2010 for improper benefits from Hawkins connected to trips, said Hawkins paid him and other players for agent meetings, the documents state.
Burney said Hawkins arranged and attended his meetings with financial adviser Marty Blazer and agent Peter Schaffer — two people who exchanged hundreds of calls with Hawkins, according to phone records cited in the warrants.
In a phone interview Sunday with the AP, Burney, now Schaffer’s client, said he didn’t know exactly how much money Hawkins gave him.
“He was just helping me at that point find a good agent,” Burney said. “Now as far as all the money situation, we never, never knew who it was coming from and never did I ever say, ‘Hey, let’s go get money from this agent.”
Burney said Schaffer never provided improper benefits, saying the agent “always was by the book with me.”
Schaffer told the AP he didn’t provide improper benefits to any UNC players. He said Hawkins spoke to him about Burney but most communication would’ve been about ex-UNC and NFL running back Willie Parker, a client who called Hawkins his “manager.”
Schaffer represents Austin and Little, both of whom previously hired other agents.
“Come out to my office, you can look through my bank records and you will not see one check wired, cash, anything to Marty Blazer, to Chris Hawkins, to Kendric Burney, to anybody,” Schaffer said. “Because it doesn’t happen.”
Blazer, Hawkins and Hawkins attorney Natasha Adams didn’t return emails Saturday from the AP.
The investigative documents listed different ways money allegedly changed hands for players long since departed from UNC.
The documents state Burney told investigators Hawkins summoned athletes to the house he shared with Parker to find “envelopes with their names on them lined up on a table.” Burney also said Hawkins paid him for signed memorabilia.
In February 2013, Quinn told investigators Hawkins provided $13,700 to steer him to Schaffer and Blazer, and called Schaffer “his guy,” the documents state. Quinn said Blazer wired him money under the name of a teammate’s girlfriend to avoid detection.
That May, Quinn’s ex-girlfriend — identified as an athlete whose name matches a former UNC softball player — told investigators Quinn received transfers through her account and said Hawkins was giving him money, the documents state.
Little also told investigators in 2013 he had received payments from Blazer through the account of former teammate and NFL receiver Hakeem Nicks, a client of both Blazer and Schaffer, according to the documents.
Quinn, now with the St. Louis Rams, and Little didn’t play in 2010 and were declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA.
The documents mention “numerous” emails between Hawkins and Blazer discussing payments made or pending to Quinn, Burney and former player Deunta Williams. Online chats between Hawkins and another person discuss teammates Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant.
Documents also cite online communication between Hawkins and Blazer discussing financial transfers. There’s no mention of transactions between Schaffer and Hawkins.
In 2014, Blazer told investigators he communicated with Hawkins because of his relationships with UNC players, but denied providing improper benefits. However, Blazer said Schaffer had done so and paying athletes was the only way to get them to talk but didn’t provide details, the documents state.
“For the Secretary of State to put that in that affidavit is slander, and this entire investigation is based on hearsay with absolutely zero credibility,” Schaffer told the AP. “It’s been a witch-hunt the whole time. The fact my name continues to come up in it is ridiculous.”
The documents also describe Hawkins attempting to make contacts elsewhere: Blazer provided investigators with a November 2013 email from Hawkins about former USC All-American Marqise Lee, the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver in 2012.
“I have a guy working out with him at USC,” the email states. “I’m going to meet with him soon!! He’s been inquiring about financial guys.. (sic) What u think about him.. Reaching out to a few folks about him.”
The documents contain no indication Lee made contact with Hawkins or Blazer.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap