Associated Press Writer
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — Investigators in North Carolina say a Georgia-based sports agent violated sports agent laws by providing more than $20,000 in cash and benefits to former Tar Heels receiver Greg Little in 2010.
In a search warrant unsealed this week, an agent with the Secretary of State’s office said Little told investigators that Terry Watson of the Watson Sports Agency provided him with a monthly cash allowance of $2,200 in addition to other benefits.
Little, now with the Cleveland Browns, also reimbursed former tutor Jennifer Wiley for expenses paid on his behalf with money received from Watson or a financial adviser, according to a probable cause affidavit in the June search warrant.
While the NCAA investigation is closed, authorities are still reviewing whether laws regulating sports agents were broken.
The warrant sought Wiley’s financial records from January 2009 to December 2010. Wiley, who has since married, was linked to academic misconduct violations involving several football players, as well as providing more than $1,900 in improper benefits to Little for parking tickets and an airline change fee.
She has declined to speak with investigators.
“I have no knowledge of any investigatory interest in Jennifer,” her attorney, Joseph B. Cheshire V, said in an email Thursday. “Other than that, we will have no comment.”
Watson didn’t immediately return a call from The Associated Press to his Marietta-based office Thursday.
The state’s Uniform Athletes Agents Act requires agents to register with the Secretary of State’s office and is designed to shield athletes from sports agents who would offer gifts to entice them to sign representation contracts. North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has said the focus isn’t on athletes or schools but on the agents or anyone that provide items of value.
“Clearly, as the warrant unsealed in Orange County indicates, this is an ongoing law enforcement investigation,” office spokesman George Jeter said in an email Thursday afternoon.
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, didn’t immediately return a call for comment Thursday afternoon.
Little met with investigators in January and said he was “ready for this chapter of his life to be over and to get on with his life on a clean slate,” according to the affidavit. During the interview, he said Wiley received several financial payments from Watson and forwarded them to Little.
It’s unclear exactly when the payments began, though Little said he had at least three meetings with Watson in North Carolina.
According to the affidavit from special agent A.H. Jones, Little told investigators that Watson gave him about $5,000 during one visit and also paid for travel accommodations and a cellphone. In addition, Little said a FedEx package sent in October 2010 from Watson to Wiley’s address contained about $2,000 in cash.
In a search warrant unsealed in March, investigators said Watson sent $2,000 in cash in a FedEx package addressed to a fake name for former UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
Little also told investigators he enlisted Wiley to help him in his agent search and that he met with agents at least three times in her residence, including his first meeting with Watson, according to the affidavit.
Neither Little nor Austin played a snap that season. Little was declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits in October 2010, though the school said then that Little had received about $5,000 in benefits.
The school dismissed Austin from the team, also for receiving improper benefits.
In all, 14 Tar Heels missed at least one game that year. In March 2012, the NCAA issued a one-year postseason ban — which kept the Tar Heels out of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game last fall — and scholarship reductions.