Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Bush attorney: FBI investigating sports marketing firm
SAN DIEGO -- The FBI has opened an investigation into a fledgling San Diego sports marketing firm that tried to recruit Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, the attorney for the football star's family told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Attorney David Cornwell of Atlanta said FBI agents interviewed him about "potential federal crimes" last week by phone. Cornwell said he intends to make Bush and his parents available to the FBI.
"They've asked now to interview Reggie and his parents," Cornwell said. "I intend to cooperate, yes."
April Langwell, an FBI spokeswoman in San Diego, said she could neither confirm nor deny any investigations.
The NCAA and Pac-10 are investigating whether any rules were broken when Bush's family lived in a suburban San Diego home owned by Michael Michaels, a principal in New Era Sports & Entertainment, while Bush was still playing for Southern California last season. The NCAA prohibits student-athletes and their families from receiving extra benefits from agents or their representatives.
Michaels and his partner, Lloyd Lake, a documented gang member serving time in prison, formed New Era late last year in the hopes of signing Bush to handle his marketing and bring aboard a San Diego agent to handle contract negotiations. Their hopes were dashed when Bush signed with another agent and marketing representative.
San Diego attorney Brian Watkins, who represents New Era, said in April he plans to sue Bush's parents for $3.2 million. Watkins said Bush's parents owed $54,000 in rent for the year they lived in Michaels' house.
"We have been contacted by the FBI to discuss the conduct of the individuals represented by Watkins," Cornwell said.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Watkins said he was unaware of the FBI investigation.
Bush and his family have so far declined to be interviewed by NCAA and Pac-10 investigators. Cornwell said they were unwilling to rovide information that could be used by Watkins but indicated he was willing to cooperate.
"The issue with the FBI is similar to the NCAA. I want to balance the cooperation with the FBI against my needs to protect my client's interest with regard to threatened litigation," Cornwell said.
Bush was expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, but the Houston Texans bypassed him and took North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams. Bush went to New Orleans with the second pick.
Before the NFL draft in late April, the league alerted some teams about a potential attempted extortion of Bush's family.