Lawyer shares February letter with newspaper

Updated: April 29, 2006, 6:29 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The parents of Southern California football star Reggie Bush received $100,000 in cash from investors in a sports marketing company that hoped to sign the running back, an attorney for the investors said in a letter obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported that when Bush signed with an agent who was not connected with the marketing company Bush's family was asked to return the money, and Bush himself sat in on a tense settlement meeting between his parents and company officials.

Attorney Brian Watkins told the Union-Tribune on Friday that Bush's parents, LaMar and Denise Griffin, asked for the money partly to resolve financial problems. Watkins said the money included an initial payment of about $30,000 to help start up the New Era Sports and Entertainment agency.

Watkins said the money was disbursed throughout 2005 and was given on more than one occasion at the home of Lloyd Lake, an investor in the company and a documented gang member. Watkins described him as a longtime friend of the Heisman Trophy winner.

Watkins described the $100,000 in disbursements in a letter dated Feb. 13 in which he asked David Cornwell, the Bush family's attorney, if USC should be included in settlement discussions.

"We would not object to their [USC's] participation as we understand their wanting to be involved due to the fact this matter was ongoing during their Championship season of 2004 as well as the entire season of 2005, and any lawsuit filed might have an adverse effect on them," Watkins' letter said.

USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said he was unaware of the letter and declined comment.

The content of the letter was reported hours after the Houston Texans, who have first overall selection in Saturday's draft, passed on Bush and signed North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams.

Watkins said earlier this week that Bush's parents didn't pay $54,000 in rent during the year they lived in a house owned by a sports marketing agency investor who wanted to represent the football star.

The money dispute began after Bush signed with another agent and marketing representative, ending any chance of a deal with New Era.

Watkins told the Times that Bush personally tried to resolve the dispute, sending New Era an e-mail that said no one was trying to cheat them, then attending a settlement meeting several weeks ago that included his parents, Watkins and New Era representatives. Watkins said New Era representatives were searched for recording devices when they entered the meeting room.

Bush's mother and stepfather had agreed to pay landlord Michael Michaels $4,500 in monthly rent when they moved into the Spring Valley house Michaels bought for $757,000 in March 2005. Michaels said the Griffins told him they eventually would pay him rent from Bush's earnings when he went pro.

Also Friday, agent David Caravantes, who is under investigation by the NFL Players Association for his role in the housing arrangement, said he has had nothing to do with the Southern California star.

Caravantes told The Associated Press he is unaware of the investigation, adding: "I have had no involvement with Reggie Bush. The truth will come out."

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, confirmed Friday that the probe of Caravantes has begun.

Watkins, who represents Lake and Michaels, said Bush's family defrauded his clients out of $300,000 over 1½ years using "the carrot" of Bush's future football career as an enticement.

Bush, who signed with agent Joel Segal, said he believes the matter will be cleared up in a few weeks.

"I've got to get back to football," he said. "My life is parallel to a horse race. They have blinders on to keep them from being distracted in the race and keep them focused on winning the race. That's kind of like my life. Focus on the goal, not the things coming at me from the side."

Watkins sent the player's parents an eviction notice on April 3, and they moved out of the house last week. Bush has said his parents left because they found another place to live.

Watkins said he plans to file a fraud lawsuit against Bush's parents and possibly Bush.

Cornwell, the Bush family attorney, did not return phone calls to The Associated Press, but in an interview with the Times he accused New Era of trying to extort millions from Bush.

"We identified their scheme months ago and collected written evidence over the course of the months," Cornwell said. "And we provided that evidence to the NFL Players Assn. and NFL Security."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement Friday, "Based on the information presented by Reggie Bush's attorney, our office has advised the attorney to consider referring these matters to law enforcement authorities."

The NCAA is investigating whether the living arrangement violated rules prohibiting student-athletes and their families from receiving extra benefits from agents or their representatives.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press