Emails detail close relationship between NCAA, Shapiro's attorney

, Daily Business Review

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Maria Elena Perez
Maria Elena Perez

Email exchanges between the NCAA and Coral Gables attorney Maria Elena Perez show they squabbled over money, found ways around the association's legal objections to paying her and likened her to a character in the television show Charlie's Angels.

The emails were released along with the NCAA's investigation of itself after it found improper conduct with its own probe of the University of Miami's dealings with Perez's imprisoned client, Miami Beach Ponzi schemer and UM booster Nevin Shapiro.

The emails reflect how top level NCAA officials ignored the organization's own rules and legal advice to funnel money to Perez as the National Collegiate Athletic Association examined Shapiro's claims that he showered UM players with improper gifts.

Shapiro, Perez's client, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for running a $930 million fraud scheme. He also bought a sports agency and sought to persuade athletes to sign up as clients.

The NCAA accused the private university Tuesday of failing to exercise institutional control when Shapiro struck up relationships with student-athletes and members of the school's coaching staffs. UM bristled at the charge, pointing to a corrupt investigation that involved payments to Perez.

She is under investigation by The Florida Bar for a possible conflict of interest for representing Shapiro as well as the body that was investigating his alleged wrongdoing at the school.

Perez billed the NCAA $57,000 and received $18,000, according to an NCAA report released Monday. It details how the organization governing college athletics broke its rules in engaging Perez to intervene in the bankruptcy proceeding involving Shapiro's now-defunct company, Capitol Investments USA Inc.

The head of the NCAA's enforcement department, Julie Roe Lach, was fired because of the violation.

Lach said in a Aug. 31, 2012, email chain she thought payments were capped at $15,000. Instead, Perez submitted invoices totaling more than $57,000, which included legal training in the field of bankruptcy law.

"I don't think we … agreed to pay Maria for her representation of Nevin, which it seems like some of these bills are for," Lach wrote in one email.

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