Warrant: Agent provided ex-UNC players cash
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Investigators in North Carolina say a Georgia-based sports agent violated sports agent laws by sending cash payments and other benefits to former Tar Heels football players.
In search warrants unsealed Monday, investigators with the Secretary of State's office say Terry Watson of the Watson Sports Agency sent $2,000 cash in 2010 to Marvin Austin, who was dismissed from the team that year for receiving improper benefits. They also say Watson had contact with players before registering with the state.
The office launched its probe in 2010 shortly after the start of an NCAA investigation at the school. The law prohibits agents from offering gifts before a contract is signed and can lead to criminal or civil penalties.
Both North Carolina and Georgia are among 42 states with laws regulating sports agents.
When she launched that investigation, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said the focus was not on athletes or schools — but on the agents and anyone giving athletes items of value. The state's Uniform Athletes Agents Act requires agents to register with Marshall's office and is designed to shield athletes from sports agents who would offer gifts to entice them to sign representation contracts.
It is a Class I felony to violate the law, meaning a maximum prison sentence of 15 months, and violations also could carry civil penalties of up to $25,000. Prosecution of the law is left to district attorneys in the locations where violations are alleged to have occurred.
Jim Woodall, the district attorney in Orange County where the university is located, confirmed he has met with the Secretary of State's investigators but declined to comment on specifics of the case because it is an ongoing investigation.
Watson didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press to his Marietta, Ga.-based office.
Chris Perlera, a spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, said Watson is not under investigation in that state. A review of Georgia's sports agents law found that it is similar to North Carolina's, but its criminal penalties range from fines of $5,000 to $100,000 and between one and five years in prison. Like the one in North Carolina, it contains possible civil penalties of up to $25,000.
The search warrants from October, December and January sought computer, financial and office records tied to Watson.
According to the probable cause affidavit in the search warrants, investigator A.H. Jones said Austin told him in an interview that "Terry Watson was a guy who gave me money" and the probe led him to an associate of Watson's named Patrick Jones.
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