HILLSBOROUGH — A third person has been arrested as part of the secretary of state’s investigation into agents providing illegal benefits to UNC football players.
Patrick Mitchell Jones, a real estate agent in Cartersville, Ga., is charged with one count of athlete-agent inducement. Jones is accused of trying to induce Robert Quinn, a defensive end who was a first-round 2011 draft pick by the St. Louis Rams, to sign with Georgia sports agent Terry Watson.
Jones, who told reporters outside the Orange County courthouse on Monday that he did not know Quinn, is accused of providing Constance Orr with $725 on May 25 for the benefit of Quinn.
A person named Constance Orr played on the UNC-CH softball team from 2009 to 2013, but athletics department officials said Monday afternoon they did not know if she was the woman mentioned in the indictment. Orange County prosecutors declined to elaborate on names in the indictment.
The arrest Monday is the third in what are expected to be five related to a protracted investigation by the Secretary of State’s office.
A former UNC tutor, Jennifer Wiley Thompson, also has been charged in a case being watched by prosecutors and defense attorneys across the nation.
Though there have been other agents charged criminally in other states on similar grounds, it is the exception rather than the norm in the college sports world.
UNC athletics officials said Monday they continute to monitor the indictments.
“Our hope is that the actions taken by the district attorney will encourage and promote proper behavior by agents, advisors, student-athletes and anyone who comes in contact with students in matters related to representation,” Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham said in a prepared statement.
The secretary of state’s office began its probe after a 2010 NCAA investigation exposed questionable activity between sports agents and the UNC football program.
Investigators have collected documents including phone records, bank statements and correspondence. They had to go to court to compel the NCAA, the governing body for college athletics, to produce documents and details related to the case.
Though there have been mounting concerns nationwide about improper contact between athletes and sports agents, legal analysts have speculated that few criminal charges result because of the time and money it takes to investigate and prosecute such cases.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said last week that he thinks it is a good use of resources.
At that time, Woodall did not count out the possibility that the investigation into agents connected to the UNC scandal might lead to inquiries at other schools inside and outside of North Carolina.
“It would be nice if some other states get involved and do some investigations,” Woodall said.
More arrests expected
Two more arrests are expected after Jones.
An Orange County grand jury recently handed up five indictments related to the case that were immediately sealed.
The indictments that have been unsealed offer a glimpse of what critics of college sports argue is the seamy side of big-money athletics.
Three former UNC football players have been mentioned in the indictments. Quinn, Greg Little and Marvin Austin.
Each of the players is in the NFL. Little is a receiver with the Cleveland Browns. Austin, a defensive tackle, signed with the Miami Dolphins last month after the New York Giants released him in August.
Illegal cash contributions
Watson is accused of illegally providing Little with about $18,200 in cash – $6,600 of which was provided after NCAA investigators began their inquiry in Chapel Hill.
Watson also is accused of providing Little with two round-trip airline tickets between North Carolina and Florida the last weekend in May 2010, at a value of $1,574, and a hotel room with Internet service at the Doubletree by Hilton Surfcomber in Miami – benefits valued at $683.24.
Watson, who has the most indictments against him so far of the three arrested, also is accused of providing Austin with $2,000 in cash on May 4, 2010.
The accusations related to Watson and Quinn, the only 2011 first-round draft pick of the three players, are for two round-trip airline tickets between North Carolina and Florida on May 26, 2010, and a hotel room with no Internet service – benefits valued at $675.74.
NCAA rules allow agents to meet with college athletes but forbid the students from entering into contracts, verbal or written, while still eligible to play. Players cannot accept meals, gifts, transportation or other incentives to sign contracts later.
The NCAA regulations govern the athletes and schools but not agents.
Under North Carolina law, sports agents are required to register with the secretary of state’s office and are prohibited from providing cash and other benefits to student-athletes.
In addition to mandatory registration, the law requires agents to notify schools immediately when they sign college athletes. The students are given 14 days to change their minds and cancel contracts.
Schools have the legal right to sue agents who violate the law, though that option is rarely exercised. Agents who fail to comply can be punished with civil or criminal penalties.
Though a criminal conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 months, the nature of the law, Woodall said, is that anyone convicted who has no prior criminal record would get probation, not prison time.
Both Thompson and Watson are scheduled to make appearances in Orange County Superior Court in mid-December.