Lawyer involved in Miami-NCAA case charged by Bar
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — An attorney who assisted the NCAA during its probe of Miami athletics is facing charges from the Florida Bar, which alleges a wide range of ethics violations occurred during that investigation.
Maria Elena Perez could face probation, a public reprimand, suspension or even disbarment. The complaint, released Monday, only asks Florida’s Supreme Court that she be "appropriately sanctioned."
Perez, a Miami graduate, declined comment when reached by The Associated Press. The Bar has been investigating for at least a year to see if, among other things, she acted unethically in taking money from the NCAA.
Perez represented Nevin Shapiro, the convicted Ponzi scheme architect and former Hurricanes booster who was at the center of the NCAA probe. One of the major missteps the NCAA acknowledged last year was that investigators aligned with Perez and tried to have her glean information from witnesses who were brought under subpoena to testify during bankruptcy proceedings involving Shapiro.
The complaint released Monday said Shapiro told Perez to forward documents from the bankruptcy case to the NCAA.
The NCAA does not have subpoena power, and that ill-gotten information was ultimately removed from the Miami case. The NCAA ruled last fall that Miami will be stripped of nine football scholarships over three years and that the athletic department will be on probation because it lacked institutional control in monitoring Shapiro’s actions with recruits, athletes and staffers.
Monday’s complaint detailed a number of alleged violations by Perez, including procedural errors she made, questions about her billing, that she failed to inform deposed witnesses about her relationship with the NCAA and that she even contacted producers at HBO about taping depositions of former Miami equipment-room staffer Sean Allen and sports agent Michael Huyghue.
Records show the NCAA paid Perez at least $19,000, though she billed them for significantly more. Shapiro is serving a 20-year term in federal prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.