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Nine Suspended Florida Players Face Possible Felony Charges

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The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

 

Nine suspended University of Florida football players face the prospect of felony charges stemming from a scandal involving credit card fraud, according to Alachua County State Attorney Bill Cervone.

The recommended third-degree felony charges against the players, including star receiver Antonio Callaway and starting running back Jordan Scarlett, were filed Monday by the University of Florida Police Department, court records show.

Callaway and Scarlett each face two charges. Offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort faces 30 charges and defensive lineman Jordan Smith faces five, while linebackers Ventrell Miller and James Houston, defensive linemen Richerd Desir-Jones and Keivonnis Davis and receiver Rick Wells each face two charges.

Each player was accused of a scheme to use other people's credit card information to transfer money into their university bookstore accounts and buy electronics and other high-tech gear, according to their incident reports.

The number of charges varied depending on the number of transactions and credit cards involved, according to university police reports.

"To say that I'll know exactly how the whole thing came about, I can't promise you that," Cervone said. "I can tell you that [credit card fraud] happens in a lot of different ways."

Cervone said determining which charges will be prosecuted could take weeks as each case is examined separately, meaning it's unlikely the players will be available soon - if at all this season. UF policy bans students from participating in school activities while facing felony charges.

When asked if the potential charges would affect the players' status with the team, Gators coach Jim McElwain said: "You're darn right."

The campus police investigation began in mid-August when two students disputed charges on their bookstore debit accounts, which school officials called "highly unusual," according to university police complaint narratives.

Other accounts were flagged and the investigation spread to nine students, the reports state. Bookstore officials recognized that those accounts belonged to university athletes, and the University Athletic Association joined the campus investigation.

"All of the students had added large amounts of funds electronically to their UF Bookstore debit accounts using one or several different credit cards that did not belong to them," the reports state. "... Most of the items purchased were electronics, including items such as laptops, iPads, and Beats headphones."

For example, Wells, who played at Raines High School in Jacksonville, added $875 to his UF Bookstore debit account June 30 using a credit card, then purchased two Apple iPads valued together at $849 with the funds later that day, according to a police report.

Reports for Callaway and Scarlett show similar purchases of computers and luxury headphones.

"I personally have never had a complaint involving nine members of the same athletic team," Cervone said. "I don't know whether it's happened elsewhere across the country."

Cervone said up to seven of the players — not including Telfort and Smith — could be eligible for a diversion program that could expunge their records and eventually help establish good standing on the team.

The suspended players still live on campus and attend classes at UF.

"I'm not saying they don't see them," McElwain said. "They all live together, right? But that's part of the lesson, too, and in some cases, our team kind of had moved on and then we'll deal with whatever it is when it comes up."

None of the players could be reached for comment, and university officials have usually not allowed interviews in past incidents.

Wells' university police report indicated that he had an attorney, who said his client would not "speak to us [school officials] or make any further statements."

"Well, obviously, know this: I really care about those guys," McElwain said. "We're going to do right by them. ... At the end of the day, I'll do everything I can to help these guys."

No court dates were listed in the clerk's records.

Staff Writer Dan Scanlan contributed to this report.

Phillip Heilman: (904) 359-4063

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September 27, 2017
 
 
 

 

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