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Report: Miami victims want gifts back

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Victims of the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Nevin Shapiro -- the former Miami booster who claims he spent millions of dollars on improper benefits for athletes -- will attempt to recoup items of value allegedly given to players, The Miami Herald reported Thursday.

Attorneys for a federal bankruptcy trustee, seeking more than $100 million on behalf of Shapiro's swindled investors, are looking to obtain any items of real value Shapiro said he gave Miami student-athletes from 2002 to 2010.

The move came on the heels of a report released by Yahoo! Sports, which laid out in painstaking detail a litany of illicit benefits allegedly provided by Shapiro to Miami football and basketball players.

Gary Freedman, who represents the bankruptcy trustee, told The Herald he believes "many of these [gifts] fall within the definition of fraudulent transfers" and his firm has "an obligation to investigate and seek their recovery" from Miami players.

"Certainly, we do not desire to bring additional attention to these athletes through this process and would urge them to contact our office," Freedman added.

Among the countless gifts and cash payments allegedly handed out, Shapiro said he spent $50,000 each for a pair of Cadillac Escalades for former Miami star and current New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork and his fiancee. Wilfork, who entered the NFL in 2004, has declined to comment on his alleged relationship with the former booster.

Shapiro, currently incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, also told Yahoo! Sports he used Ponzi money to donate $50,000 to the university's basketball program in 2008. A picture provided to Yahoo! clearly showed Shapiro at a fundraiser with a smiling university president Donna Shalala holding a check.

Freedman told The Herald he had already requested that Miami return $130,000 Shapiro donated as a 10-year pledge, allowing him to attach his name to a student-athlete lounge. The school reportedly removed his name in 2008 when the donations stopped.

Victims of Shapiro's scheme include University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, his wife Cynthia and their son Chad. The Alvarez family reportedly lost a combined $1 million through investments with Shapiro.

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