Sports agents, associates may face charges

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 08:21 PM

The N.C. Secretary of State’s Office is considering whether to file criminal charges against a Georgia sports agent and others who allegedly sent thousands of dollars in cash to some UNC football players, including $20,000 to Greg Little.

The Secretary of State’s Office has concluded its investigation of Terry Watson and others who may have assisted him to determine if they violated the North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agents Act.

That law requires sports agents doing business in North Carolina to register as agents and to follow rules on how and when agents can contact potential clients. An agent suspected of violating the act with a North Carolina athlete could be indicted and tried for a Class I felony, the lowest-level felony in North Carolina.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he has been meeting with investigators and attorneys from the Secretary of State’s office about the investigation.

“We had a meeting all [last] Thursday afternoon, and we talked about this,” he said. “We’re going to meet again in two weeks. The purpose of that meeting is to decide whether there will be charges filed.”

During the investigation, names of other agents who may have violated the Act came up, and they’ll discuss potential evidence against those agents as well, he said.

“Certainly, other agents have come to the attention of investigators,” Woodall said. “It will be up to the Secretary of State’s Office to decide on them.”

Although he wouldn’t say if anyone would be charged with a crime, a special prosecutor already has been sworn in in Orange County to assist with the cases, he said. Mitch Garrell, who works for the Conference of District Attorneys, specializes in financial crimes and is helping with the case, Woodall said.

“He’s been working with us in evaluating the case along with the lawyers from the Secretary of State’s office,” Woodall said.

If anyone is charged with crimes associated with UNC players, the cases would be prosecuted in Orange County. If the investigation reveals that agents illegally contacted players on other college teams in North Carolina, those agents would be prosecuted in those counties.

If charges are filed, it most likely would be the first time in the country that a sports agent has been charged with a crime involving illegal contact with college players, Woodall said.

“We checked around some and as best we can tell no one has ever been charged,” he said.

In Texas, some sports agents have been fined through a civil process for violating the rules there, he said.

The latest information about the investigation conducted by Investigator A.H. Jones of the Secretary of State’s Office came through a search warrant affidavit to obtain Jennifer Wiley’s bank records from Branch Banking and Trust in Winston-Salem between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010.

The search warrant affidavit was unsealed this week at the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough.

Wiley was a tutor who worked with football players and became friends with some of them. The investigation revealed that Watson or one of his associates sent cash to Wiley’s residence at Little’s request, according to the affidavit.

Wiley’s attorney, Joe Cheshire, did not return a call asking for comment.

The affidavit reveals that Little cooperated with the investigation.

 “During this period of time Greg Little was an eligible student athlete as recognized by the Act, and any payments made to him by Terry Watson would be a felony violation,” the affidavit states.

The Georgia State Bureau of Investigation assisted with the investigation by serving a search warrant on Watson Sports Agency in Marietta, Ga. on Oct. 12 and seized Watson’s computer and other items.

“The forensic examination of Watson’s computer revealed extensive amounts of incriminating evidence supporting witness statements and other evidence obtained by the Department,” the affidavit stated.

Watson could not be reached for comment.

Little, who played at Hillside High in Durham, was permanently banned from college football by the NCAA in 2010 and is now a receiver with the Cleveland Browns.

The affidavit spelled out what Little told the investigator after saying he wanted to get on with his life on a clean slate.

A man named Willie, later identified as Willie Barley, first approached him for Watson at a pool party in Miami.

Little said he asked Wiley to help him with his search for an agent and secretly met agents at Wiley’s home.

After he told Watson he wanted him to be his agent, Watson began giving him a monthly cash allowance of $2,200, and paid for airline tickets, hotels, and other items.

During the investigation, then-UNC athletic director Dick Baddour attempted to get Little reinstated, writing to the NCAA that his punishment was “unduly harsh.”

The NCAA investigation eventually led to the suspension of 14 football players at UNC, including three who were declared permanently ineligible. The team was forced to miss the postseason last year and is still dealing with sanctions, including the loss of scholarships.