The Santa Monica businessman who owns a sport utility vehicle that USC tailback Joe McKnight has been observed driving says he is a University of Washington fan who has "nothing to do with agents, marketing players or representing athletes."
USC is investigating McKnight's use of the vehicle, which may constitute a violation of NCAA rules that prohibit student-athletes from accepting benefits from marketing representatives or agents, or "extra benefits" from anyone based on their athletic ability.
The Times published a story on its website Friday and in Saturday's newspaper about McKnight's use of the 2006 Land Rover the last few weeks. The vehicle is registered to Scott Schenter, who owns and has worked for several companies with marketing interests.
McKnight said Wednesday that he never drove the Land Rover. But a Times reporter observed the junior from Louisiana driving the vehicle several times.
Last week, Schenter answered an initial e-mail query from a Times reporter, by asking what the reporter wanted to talk about. Five subsequent e-mails -- some of which included questions about the vehicle, Schenter's businesses and his relationships with USC, McKnight and McKnight's girlfriend -- received no reply until Saturday.
In an e-mail, Schenter said he was in Johannesburg, South Africa, "finalizing a major business deal," and complained The Times had not given him adequate opportunity to respond to questions. He said, "The Internet is very expensive to use and I had meetings scheduled all week with no time to check the Internet."
(The full text of Schenter's e-mailed comments can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ykeb7vu)
Schenter said he has worked more than 21 years for the Los Angeles County Assessor's office appraising high-value homes. He said he also was "an entrepreneur that has his hands in numerous businesses and investment opportunities," and that "I would rather be known for my expertise in my marketing and finance ventures (there are more)."
Schenter said that McKnight's girlfriend, Johanna Michelle Beltran, was "a longtime family friend" and an "employee of Smart Bullets Inc.," which "has a patent to turn nuclear wastes into valuable metals." Schenter did not explain his involvement in the company or detail Beltran's job description or employment history. McKnight told The Times last week that Beltran is Schenter's secretary.
Schenter also did not return e-mails seeking clarification about his business ventures and personal relationships with McKnight and Beltran.
McKnight did not return calls to his cellphone and attempts by The Times to reach Beltran, through McKnight and independently, were unsuccessful.
Schenter said he registered the Land Rover, which a Department of Motor Vehicles official said carried a purchase price of about $27,000, because Beltran's parents could not qualify for a loan. "It is her car," Schenter said. He also said Beltran makes the payments and is responsible for insurance.
"The payments are a little over $500/month (not a big amount)," he wrote. A DMV official said last week that the registration had been suspended because of lack of proof of insurance.
Documents in the Los Angeles County Registrar's office show that in May 2008, Schenter registered two companies, "Brighter" and "USC Marketing." Schenter said in his e-mail that USC stood for United States China Marketing.
Other records show Brighter later registered for the website domain 4joemcknight.com and Schenter was listed as the administrative contact for that site and several other domains, including ojaymayo.com and uscmarketing.com. None of those sites are currently active.
"I only purchased www.4joemcknight.com (didn't renew) because I thought it was clever along with the many other ones I own/owned," Schenter said. "Michelle Beltran knew nothing of this website." Schenter said his other domains include uscromeo.com, uclalove.com, 24kobe.com and airkobe.com.