Recordings may show Saints cover-up

Updated: May 7, 2010, 9:17 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- A lawyer who says he has recordings showing that the New Orleans Saints tried to cover up prescription Vicodin thefts from team headquarters says the NFL has not asked to see any of the evidence that has already been sent to federal authorities.

"We're not adverse to letting the NFL know what we know," said attorney Donald Hyatt, who represents former Saints security director Geoffrey Santini. "That's the governing body for the sport. Maybe they need to know what's going on."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said the league is aware of the case against the Saints and is following developments, but Aiello declined on Thursday to address specifics, including any knowledge of the tapes.

Santini, who says he resigned last August over the club's handling of the alleged Vicodin thefts, filed the lawsuit late last week.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel has denied the allegations and said the club is prepared to vigorously defend itself in court.

Hyatt said video and audio evidence collected and copied by Santini indicates otherwise.

"The notion that they're false allegations, that there was no wrongdoing, based on my review of video and audio recordings, is absurd," Hyatt said.

Santini, a retired FBI agent, gave federal authorities evidence he collected at team headquarters before he resigned. Santini worked for the FBI for 31 years and was the lead agent in a gambling corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration told The Associated Press last weekend that the agency is aware of the matter and that an investigation is pending.

However, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten has declined to discuss the investigation.

"While acknowledging the complaint was made to us and the fact that we referred it to DEA for their consideration, I'm not at liberty to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation," Letten said.

Head coach Sean Payton is the only member of the franchise other than Bensel to comment on the case.

Payton issued a statement through the team, asserting he has never abused or stolen Vicodin, a narcotic used to relieve moderate to severe pain.

Payton spoke out when his name surfaced as the unidentified person in the complaint who was permitted to take a large enough amount of Vicodin from the team's drug locker to constitute abuse.

Nothing in the complaint indicated that Payton, who was not mentioned in the lawsuit by name, had done anything illegal. However, the complaint said another "senior staff member" was caught on video using a trainer's key to steal Vicodin.

People who have spoken to The Associated Press about the case -- on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations -- said that other staff member was linebackers coach Joe Vitt.

Vitt has not responded to voicemail and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Santini's lawsuit alleges that general manager Mickey Loomis asked Santini to keep quiet about the Vicodin case and allegedly told Santini not to preserve video evidence. The complaint also alleges that two trainers -- Scottie Patton and Kevin Mangum -- were caught on audio recordings discussing that they were ordered by Loomis to forge entries in official logs so the amount of Vicodin stolen would be reflected as an amount that had been properly distributed.

The DEA is not known to concern itself with drug abusers or make the theft of a relatively small amount of a controlled substance a high priority.

However, an alleged cover-up of the improper distribution of controlled substances from an on-site pharmacy at the team's facility could be difficult for federal authorities to ignore.

The Saints continue to focus on the business of football, trying to secure contracts for several stars from last seasons Super Bowl championship squad. Earlier this week, the Saints completed a 1-year contract with All-Pro safety Darren Sharper and a 7-year contract with All-Pro right guard Jahri Evans.

This weekend, the Saints will hold rookie camp.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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