Grand Jury Calls Ex-Michigan Stars
DETROIT (AP) _ A Michigan booster whose ties to the basketball team led to an NCAA investigation and the firing of coach Steve Fisher is the subject of a grand jury investigation.
The panel has subpoenaed former Michigan basketball players, including NBA players Chris Webber, Robert Traylor, Louis Bullock and Maurice Taylor, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday, citing an unidentified person close to the investigation.
The grand jury is trying to determine if Ed Martin paid players and ran a gambling ring. The school banned Martin from having contact with athletes in 1997.
L. Fallasha Erwin, a lawyer and agent for Webber, now with the Sacramento Kings, was asked whether his client had been subpoenaed or interviewed by the FBI. He said only that Webber would cooperate.
Calls to the FBI were not immediately returned, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit had no comment Friday.
Martin was a target in a 1997 investigation that led to minor NCAA sanctions and Fisher’s dismissal.
David Price, the NCAA’s vice president for enforcement, told The Ann Arbor News the organization could pursue any new violations under the organization’s four-year statute of limitations.
But Bill Saum, the NCAA’s director of agent and gambling activities, said the NCAA will see how the investigation proceeds.
Wiretaps on Martin recorded conversations with several former stars, including Webber, Traylor, Bullock and Taylor, the Free Press reported, citing an unidentified person close to the investigation.
Those recordings provided the basis for search warrants executed last month on Martin’s home, 10 other homes and an office, the source said. Authorities contend the raids netted roughly $150,000.
Sources told the Ann Arbor paper and The Detroit News that Martin, a retired Ford Motor Co. electrician, focused his operation at the Ford Rouge Complex in Dearborn.
According to the sources, gamblers would bet on the daily three- or four-digit numbers picked by the legal state lottery. But Martin’s operation would give bettors higher odds for winning than the state.
Sources believe only one Ford plant, the Rouge complex, is involved. Eleven residences, one office and one safety deposit box were raided April 28 by the FBI and IRS agents.
Agents, according to federal court records, seized gambling materials at each home they raided. They also confiscated several loaded hand guns and more than $165,000 in cash.
The raid on Martin’s home uncovered a copy of a Western Union transaction between Martin and Traylor, who left Michigan in 1998 and now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Ann Arbor News reported that a computer check of records found Traylor’s mailing address had been the same as Martin’s home address while Traylor was playing for Michigan.
Martin, Traylor and Martin’s attorney could not be reached for comment Friday.
Other players under scrutiny, the Free Press sources said, include Taylor, Traylor, Bullock and Jalen Rose of Indiana Pacers.
Traylor has denied accepting money from Martin, the Free Press said. Rose called the matter ``unnecessary drama, and I won’t feed into that foolishness.″
When reached at his parents’ Maryland home, Bullock said of the suspected payments to players: ``I didn’t have anything to do with it.″ He said he had not been interviewed by federal agents or, apparently, been subpoenaed for the grand jury.
As for Martin, Bullock said: ``I never accepted anything from him. That’s all you need to write. My parents are well off.″
Athletic director Tom Goss said this week the Wolverines have taken strong steps in the past two years to shield athletes from Martin.