A Coral Gables lawyer has been suspended for 91 days for acting unethically while representing rogue University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, whose shady dealings led to sanctions against the school.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday issued its official suspension of Maria Elena Perez for her conduct while representing Shapiro in a bankruptcy case. The suspension was no surprise. The Florida Bar and Perez had earlier negotiated the punishment, which was accepted by the high court.
Shapiro, who sparked the NCAA probe by telling the organization that he plied high-profile UM athletes with gifts, has been serving 20 years in prison for fleecing investors in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Ultimately, the university voluntarily agreed not to compete in bowls for two years. In 2013, the NCAA put the school on probation for three years and took away nine scholarships.
But the investigation was significantly weakened after it emerged that the NCAA had paid Perez $18,325 for her help in questioning witnesses in Shapiro’s bankruptcy case — evidence that was used in the association’s probe of UM’s football and basketball programs.
She used her subpoena power in the bankrupcy case to question two witnesses who were crucial to the NCAA’s case. The NCAA had no subpoena power, and neither witness had any obligation to talk to the association.
Perez could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.