One day after the NCAA's investigation of improper benefits conferred by convicted Ponzi scheme operator Nevin Shapiro to University of Miami athletes imploded, the attorney at the center of the scandal has denied any wrongdoing. Miami lawyer Maria Elena Perez told reporters Thursday that she is being set up as the NCAA's "patsy" for an investigation that the collegiate athletics association botched:
"I'm a spider and I play by the rules," she said. "And that's the only way to win. And in this case, I did nothing wrong and I was playing by the f------ rules and I am not bound by NCAA rules, and if they did something wrong, it is their problem and they are trying to make it my problem. This is not my problem."
"I don't know what it's all about and I find this very suspicious," she said. "And I'm starting to believe they want to intentionally botch this investigation for reasons I can only imagine are monetary."
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that a 22-month investigation of the University of Miami's athletics program would be suspended while it investigates its own investigative practices. The Miami investigation centered around payments of cash, cars, prostitutes, and other improper goods and services Shapiro provided to Hurricane athletes. While the NCAA was investigating Shapiro and the University, Perez was representing Shapiro in a bankruptcy case. The NCAA does not have subpoena power, and cannot compel testimony from relevant parties. Emmert said that investigators had improperly contracted with Perez to use her subpoena power to ask questions relevant to the NCAA investigation in the course of the bankruptcy.
For more on the story, visit State of the Union
Perez admitted to receiving a small payment from the NCAA for her help, but denied anything improper or untoward about that payment or her work with the Association, and denied taking testimony on the NCAA's behalf:
"At the end of the day, that does not establish an attorney-client relationship between me and the NCAA," Perez said. "It establishes that they wanted to pay for certain things to help Shapiro where there were issues of common interest. Period. There's nothing wrong with that. They didn't pay me to get testimony. They didn't pay me to get a story. There's a huge difference."
There is no word yet of if or when the NCAA's investigation of Miami might resume, or what previously-discovered evidence will be excluded by the NCAA upon its resumption.