Plaintiff details allegations vs. Saints
In his first lengthy interview since filing a federal lawsuit against the team, former Saints security director Geoffrey Santini told USA Today that he decided to resign and later sue the team only after general manager Mickey Loomis tried to convince him to help cover up the theft of Vicodin from the team's headquarters.
"I was witnessing crimes, and I wasn't going to stand for that," Santini told the newspaper. "I did everything I could to save the people that were involved, but it just didn't go that way. Mickey didn't let it."
Loomis did not return a call to USA Today and hasn't responded publicly to Santini's lawsuit.
I was witnessing crimes, and I wasn't going to stand for that. I did everything I could to save the people that were involved, but it just didn't go that way. Mickey [Loomis] didn't let it.” -- Geoffrey Santini, to USA Today
An attorney for the Saints said Wednesday that the team will wait until trial to respond to Santini's allegations that the club tried to cover up prescription Vicodin thefts at team headquarters.
The Saints won't settle with Santini and won't be publicly discussing the lawsuit that he filed against the team until it goes to court, lawyer Phil Wittman said.
"We're in litigation with Mr. Santini and I feel we should proceed with the legal process and not make any media comments at this time," Wittman said. "The courts don't like it when you try your case in the papers."
The lawsuit, filed April 30, alleges one "senior staff member" was caught on video stealing the prescription painkiller Vicodin, while another was allowed to take a seemingly excessive amount of Vicodin from team supplies.
Santini told USA Today the "senior staff member" caught on video stealing Vicodin was Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and the other staff member mentioned in the lawsuit is Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Santini's lawsuit does not implicate Payton in anything illegal. Santini resigned from his post with the Saints effective Aug. 29.
Santini said being ordered to either undertake or ignore activity he thought might be criminal was what led him to resign, and he is seeking damages and back pay.
The lawsuit contends Loomis asked Santini to find out who was stealing Vicodin, then tried to keep the matter quiet after Santini, a retired FBI agent, brought back the results of his investigation.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel has denied the allegations against the club, portraying Santini as a disgruntled former employee trying to orchestrate a shakedown. Bensel has said the team will aggressively defend itself in court.
According to USA Today, the lawsuit alleges that team head trainer Scottie Patton said that Vitt had a medical condition requiring the use of Vicodin. Payton did not have a medical condition for which the drug was prescribed, USA Today reported Patton saying, citing the lawsuit.
Santini told USA Today that he asked Loomis to come clean about the situation before they met with team owner Tom Benson. Benson had said that NFL security told him "that they didn't feel they were getting all the facts," Santini told USA Today.
"I begged Mickey Loomis. I said 'Now's the opportunity to tell him everything. We can get this out on the table so at least the owner is fully aware. He owns the team. He's the boss. And if we get him fully knowledgeable, then we're safe.' But Mickey didn't want to do that," Santini told the newspaper.
The lawsuit states that Loomis told Benson that both Vitt and Payton were taking Vicodin for medical conditions, even though Patton had said that Payton didn't have a condition requiring the use of the prescription drug, USA Today reported.
"He was protecting Payton," Santini told USA Today. "That day pretty much ended it for me."
On Saturday, Payton stopped short of responding directly to the allegations in the lawsuit, saying now was not the right time to tell his side because civil litigation is pending.
"Certainly, we understand the questions surrounding it, but I'm really not at liberty to" answer them, Payton said. "As time goes forward, we'll know more and more. ... There just needs to be the correct steps. When you have a civil suit, those probably become more complicated. ... That's the thing that's challenging."
If proved, the theft of controlled substances and an attempted cover-up could represent violations of state and federal laws. Failing to report the alleged thefts could be a violation of federal law.
Santini gave evidence he collected to federal authorities before he resigned from the Saints last August and also kept his own copies of video and audio recordings that his lawyer, Donald Hyatt II, said back up his civil case.
USA Today, citing the lawsuit, reported that Santini recorded conversations with Loomis, Patton and assistant trainer Kevin Mangum.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has told The Associated Press that it is aware of the allegations and that an investigation is pending. Jefferson Parish authorities, who would have jurisdiction over state crimes in Metairie, La., said they were not aware of the allegations until the lawsuit was filed April 30 and that they are not investigating at this time.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said the league is aware of Santini's lawsuit and is following developments, but has no further comment.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.