Report: Point-Shaving Inquiry at UNLV : College basketball: Newspaper says federal authorities examining relationship between players and convicted sports fixer Perry.
Federal authorities are investigating whether Nevada Las Vegas basketball players shaved points last season as a result of their dealings with convicted sports fixer Richard Perry, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Thursday.
The newspaper, quoting an unnamed federal law enforcement officer close to the case, said the inquiry covers the entire 1990-91 season, including UNLV’s loss to Duke in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament at Indianapolis.
According to the Review-Journal, the investigation is being conducted jointly by the Internal Revenue Service and the Las Vegas Organized Crime Strike Force, a branch of the U.S. Attorney’s office. If sufficient evidence is found, the case will be presented to a federal grand jury.
Issues being addressed by federal investigators, the Review-Journal reported, include:
--The size and source of funds in UNLV players’ checking accounts.
--Whether Perry took or placed bets on UNLV games.
--Whether Perry or his associates had access to the UNLV dressing room.
--The source of Stacey Augmon’s $2,000 down payment on a Ford Mustang he purchased while attending UNLV.
--Whether Augmon was in Atlantic City, N.J., with Perry immediately after the loss to Duke.
--Whether Anderson Hunt worked as a host at a Las Vegas restaurant, Richie’s Room, frequented by Perry.
Leland Lufty, interim U.S. attorney in Las Vegas, declined comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Barr, head of the Organized Crime Strike Force, would not confirm or deny the existence of the investigation.
UNLV President Robert Maxson said he was “gravely concerned” about the matter, but added: “We must remember there have been no allegations, and I honestly hope there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of anyone connected with the university.”
Published reports throughout the last five years have linked Perry, who has twice been convicted on federal sports bribery charges, to UNLV coaches, players and recruits. The NCAA has charged that Perry acted improperly as a representative of UNLV’s interests in the school’s recruitment of former New York high school star Lloyd Daniels in 1986 and ’87.
The Review-Journal story is the first indication, however, that federal authorities are interested in Perry’s dealings with UNLV players.
UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian discounted the Review-Journal story.
“It’s all bull,” he said. “I will bet you that not one investigation is going on. (Authorities) haven’t talked to one single player, to one single coach. The whole thing is manufactured.”
Tarkanian claimed that the matter is a “deception” initiated by UNLV legal counsel Brad Booke, one of several school administrators with whom Tarkanian has fought in the last year.
Booke called Tarkanian’s remark “absurd.”
Booke was interviewed last month by federal authorities seeking information on Perry as well as documents regarding Perry’s dealings with Daniels and other documents generated through the university’s response to the NCAA charges.
Booke said Thursday that the purpose of the federal investigation is unclear to him.
He said the university has not investigated whether points were shaved by UNLV players.
“There was, I think, general discontent after the Duke game,” he said, “but no one thought any impropriety was attached to it.”
The Rebels, who entered the game undefeated and 9 1/2-point favorites in some betting lines, lost to the Blue Devils, 79-77. Several UNLV players had poor games or made mistakes at crucial times. Sports Illustrated reported that Tarkanian used a string of expletives after the game to describe the play of center George Ackles and star forward Augmon.
The Times has learned that federal investigators also have gone to a source outside the university to obtain documents pertaining to Perry’s relationships with UNLV players.
Perry pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit sports bribery in 1984 in connection with the Boston College point-shaving scandal. In 1974, he was convicted for his part in a harness racing scandal that involved the fixing of races at two New York tracks.
A native of Brooklyn, Perry was publicly linked to UNLV for the first time in 1987. Using the name “Sam Perry,” he became known as a benefactor for Daniels. A year later, Time magazine reported Perry’s true identity and background. After the Time article, Tarkanian announced that UNLV players would no longer be allowed to associate with Perry.
Last May, however, the Review-Journal published photographs showing former UNLV players Hunt, Moses Scurry and David Butler sitting in a hot tub with Perry and playing basketball with him. The photos reportedly were taken near the start of the 1989-90 season.
Less than two weeks after the photos were published, Tarkanian announced that the 1991-92 season would be his last at UNLV.
The Associated Press quoted an unnamed executive at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City as saying authorities had inquired at the hotel about possible casino surveillance tapes showing Perry and Augmon together. The executive was quoted as saying he was unaware of the existence of such tapes.
Contacted by AP, Augmon, currently with the NBA Atlanta Hawks, called the report of the inquiry “a joke.”
After the Duke game, Augmon said, he drove to Cincinnati with Bengal running back Ickey Woods, a former UNLV player. From there, Augmon said, he flew home to Pasadena.
“They keep trying to find a reason we lost to Duke,” he said. “But we just lost, period. That happens sometimes.”