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Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Police probing whether third party duped would-be recruit

Associated Press

RENO, Nev. -- Lyon County sheriff's detectives were trying Wednesday to corroborate claims by a Fernley High School football player who said he paid a man who duped him into believing he was recruited by a Division I collegiate program.

"We do have a report of some sort of a recruiting deal with Kevin Hart," Lt. Rob Hall said. "There's a lot of facts that we're trying to run down to corroborate what he's telling us."

Hall said Hart, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman, alleges he paid someone money, though the detective wouldn't say how much.

Hart spoke with deputies Saturday, a day after he announced at a school assembly and a press conference that he would sign with California.

At the announcement ceremony on Friday, Hart, with Fernley coach Mark Hodges at his side, said he talked Cal head coach Jeff Tedford many times, and that "personal experience" led to his decision to choose the Golden Bears over Oregon, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

But the announcement was questioned almost immediately, and on Monday officials with California and University of Oregon said Hart was never recruited by their programs.

Hall said he received the report of Hart's interview with deputies on Wednesday.

"Nothing has been corroborated," he said, adding, "There are some things that appear to be inconsistent with how the [recruiting] process works."

Hall said Hart claimed the alleged recruiter was named Kevin Riley, and that he believed he was from Las Vegas.

Hart, however, was "unable to provide any phone numbers, addresses," or other contact information for the purported recruiter, Hall said.

Lyon County detectives intended to contact Las Vegas police, to see if their fraud unit was aware of any similar instances.

"It would seem kind of odd if there wasn't," Hall said, noting that to pull off such a scam, someone "would be pretty knowledgeable, pretty smooth," and "would probably have done it before."

Hall stressed that the investigation was in the early stages.

"We're not prepared to say it's true, it's untrue," he said. "We're still evaluating if any of these actions took place, and if so where was it committed and by whom."

On Tuesday, Lyon County School District administrators said an internal investigation showed that none of the universities once thought to have pursued Hart -- including Nevada, Washington and Oklahoma State -- were involved.

Superintendent Nat Lommori and Assistant Superintendent Teri White, in issuing the statement the day before recruits across the country sign letters of intent to play for college programs, said they wanted to relieve concerns prospective recruits to those schools might have because of the Hart matter.