Legal affairs

Florida Bar accuses lawyer who represented UM booster Nevin Shapiro

 

Maria Elena Perez, who represented Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, was slapped with allegations of ethical violations during botched NCAA probe.

 
This image from Sept. 2003 video shows Miami booster Nevin Shapiro gesturing on the field at an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida, in Miami, Fla.  The NCAA's probe of Miami's athletic compliance practices is ramping up yet again. Only this time, the Hurricanes aren't exactly the subject of the inquiry. The NCAA itself is being investigated after NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, "a very severe issue of improper conduct" by former investigators working the long, complex Miami case. (AP Photo/WFOR/CBS4)
This image from Sept. 2003 video shows Miami booster Nevin Shapiro gesturing on the field at an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida, in Miami, Fla. The NCAA's probe of Miami's athletic compliance practices is ramping up yet again. Only this time, the Hurricanes aren't exactly the subject of the inquiry. The NCAA itself is being investigated after NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, "a very severe issue of improper conduct" by former investigators working the long, complex Miami case. (AP Photo/WFOR/CBS4)
WFOR / CBS4 / ASSOCIATED PRESS

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

The lawyer who represented rogue University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro has been accused of unethical behavior during the botched NCAA investigation that led to sanctions against the school.

The Florida Bar this week filed a formal complaint against Maria Elena Perez, of Coral Gables, for violating numerous ethics rules during the NCAA probe in 2011.

If the Florida Supreme Court ultimately finds she committed misconduct, Perez could be suspended or even disbarred. She could not be reached on Tuesday afternoon.

Shapiro, who sparked the probe by telling the NCAA that he plied high-profile UM athletes with gifts for years, is serving 20 years prison for fleecing investors in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Ultimately, UM voluntarily agreed not to compete in bowls for two years; the NCAA last year put the school on probation for three years and took away nine scholarships.

But the probe, which was largely built on Shapiro’s word, was significantly weakened after it emerged that the NCAA had paid Perez $19,000 for her help in questioning witnesses in the case.

In 2011, Perez used her subpoena power in Shapiro’s bankruptcy case to compel the deposition testimony of Michael Huyghue, the founder of a Shapiro-funded sports agency alleged to have paid cash gifts to athletes. She used the same tactic, the Florida Bar found, with former team assistant equipment manager Sean Allen, who had worked briefly for the sports agency.

The NCAA has no subpoena power and neither man had any obligation to talk to the association.

The Florida Bar, according to its complaint, built its case on scores of internal e-mails, invoices, and text messages.

According to the complaint, she also leaked a copy of one deposition transcript to the media, billed the NCAA for depositions that never took place and lied in public statements about her work for the athletic agency.

Perez, a UM graduate, even contacted HBO Sports, which secretly provided a videographer to record the depositions, according to the complaint.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

  • Friends and Neighbors

    Friends and Neighbors: Campaign raises money to feed hungry school children

    Local food banks want to help children who often go hungry get what they need to thrive in school. Community support is needed.

  • Friends and Neighbors

    Florida Mayors join forces to say no to bullies

    Looking back at my growing up days, I can remember how school bullies tried to made life miserable for me and a lot of other youngsters. I remember being followed home one day by a bully who wanted to start a fight. When I kept ignoring her, she soon turned, with her followers and went home. Unlike some of today’s bullies, she didn’t try to hit me. She was just all mouth, spitting out insulting remarks.

  • Crime Watch

    Crime Watch: How to protect your children online

    School will be starting soon and many of you emailed me regarding the social network sites that your kids will be using this year. Nowadays it’s not just the computer at home but also their smartphones. You need to consider blocking your kids’ phones from some of these sites. Check with your telephone carrier to see what programs they have to offer in protecting kids.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category