Wednesday, January 24, 2007 Updated: January 25, 12:00 PM ET
Report: Tapes could confirm Bush received gifts
ESPN.com news services
SAN DIEGO -- The existence of taped conversations between Reggie Bush or members of his family and an investor in a failed sports marketing agency could confirm the New Orleans Saints running back received cash and gifts while playing for Southern California, Yahoo.com reported Wednesday.
A federal investigation into extortion claims by Bush and his family revealed the existence of the taped conversations, according to the Yahoo.com report.
The U.S. Attorney's office in San Diego has issued grand jury subpoenas to multiple witnesses in the probe, Yahoo.com reported. According to a copy of a subpoena obtained by Yahoo, at least one of the witnesses was asked to hand over "any recordings in your possession of conversations between Lloyd Lake and Reggie Bush, Denise Griffin or LaMar Griffin."
Lake, who founded a sports marketing agency in hopes of landing Bush as its first client, is the subject of a grand jury probe into the extortion claims. Denise Griffin is Bush's mother, and LaMar Griffin is Bush's stepfather.
Yahoo.com, citing unidentified sources, reported LaMar Griffin spoke with federal investigators in the spring of 2006 and acknowledged the existence of the tapes.
"We're aware of an investigation into possible criminal conduct by Lake and others associated with him," Bush attorney David Cornwell told ESPN's Joe Schad on Wednesday. "We have and will continue to cooperate with the Department of Justice."
When asked in the past about the allegations of receiving inappropriate extra benefits, Bush has insisted that he and his family did nothing wrong.
Multiple sources told Yahoo.com that Lake made the tapes in late 2005 to protect his financial investment if Bush backed out of a deal to sign with New Era Sports & Entertainment, founded by Lake and San Diego businessman Michael Michaels. In January 2006, Bush signed with agent Joel Segal and marketing agent Mike Ornstein.
On Jan. 12, 2007, Lake's mother, Barbara Gunner, testified before a grand jury, according to the Yahoo.com report, that she had heard portions of tapes made by her son, in which LaMar Griffin states Bush intended to repay New Era Sports "their money," as well as for a car purchased for him.
Lake told Yahoo in August 2006 that he contributed a portion of the cash and gifts allegedly given to Bush and his family as part of an agreement to represent the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner when he signed an NFL contract. In September, Yahoo.com reported Ornstein also supplied Bush and his family with gifts while he was still at USC.
According to Yahoo.com, nearly $280,000 in cash, rent and gifts was allegedly given to Bush and his family.
The Pac-10 Conference and the NCAA are investigating whether Bush or his family broke NCAA rules and compromised his eligibility during the 2004 and '05 seasons by taking extra benefits.
If Bush is found to have violated NCAA rules, USC, which won a national title in 2004 and played for the '05 championship, could be sanctioned.
Meanwhile, the nine members of the Heisman Trust continue to monitor the Bush story. When reached by Schad, a spokesman for the Heisman Trust cautioned Thursday that the members will take no action until the NCAA and Pac-10 complete their investigations.
If at such time it is shown that Bush should not have been eligible at the time of the Heisman voting -- a violation of a requirement printed on the ballot itself -- the fate of Bush as a Heisman winner would likely be decided by majority vote of the nine members.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.