The attorney for former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro says she's the NCAA's "patsy" and questioned the sports governing body's motives in its investigation of the Hurricanes, she told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The NCAA said Wednesday its enforcement staff worked with Shapiro's defense attorney to obtain information improperly through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve its investigation of Miami.
The NCAA did not name the attorney, but Maria Elena Perez told the Sun Sentinel she did not collude with NCAA investigators.
"I think this is completely insane," Perez told the newspaper. "I think there's absolutely nothing here to investigate, and like I told everyone, everything I did was above board."
A source told ESPN's Joe Schad that Shapriro's attorney was given a list of questions to ask during the bankruptcy deposition on behalf of the NCAA. The attorney then sent a bill to the NCAA for expenses, which NCAA president Mark Emmert said led to questions of the organization's conduct in the case.
Perez said the NCAA paid her for her services. She told the Sun Sentinel she shared a common interest with the NCAA, but did not say what it was.
The NCAA considered Sean Allen and Michael Huyghue, former associates of Shapiro, important witnesses in their case against Miami, but they were not required to speak with NCAA investigators because they did not work for Miami, according to the Sun Sentinel.
However, they were deposed in Shapiro's bankruptcy case, in which Perez could speak to them.
"At the end of the day, that does not establish an attorney-client relationship between me and the NCAA," Perez told the newspaper. "It establishes that they wanted to pay for certain things to help Shapiro where there were issues of common interest. Period. There's nothing wrong with that. They didn't pay me to get testimony. They didn't pay me to get a story. There's a huge difference."
Emmert said any information obtained under this method would be thrown out, but Perez told the Sun Sentinel the information from the depositions was worthless to the NCAA.
"Michael Huyghue and Sean Allen couldn't remember anything," she said, "so there's absolutely nothing that they can glean from them. So I don't know how two 2004 examinations can taint an entire investigation that is so far gone at this point."
Perez said the NCAA was trying to push its mistakes onto her.
"I did nothing wrong and I was playing by the f------ rules and I am not bound by NCAA rules, and if they did something wrong, it is their problem and they are trying to make it my problem. This is not my problem," she told the Sun Sentinel.
Perez then questioned the NCAA's motives.
"I don't know what it's all about and I find this very suspicious," she said. "And I'm starting to believe they want (to) intentionally botch this investigation for reasons I can only imagine are monetary."
I don't know what it's all about and I find this very suspicious. And I'm starting to believe (the NCAA wants to) intentionally botch this investigation for reasons I can only imagine are monetary.” -- Maria Elena Perez, Nevin Shapiro's attorney, to the South Florida Sun Sentinel
In a statement Thursday, Emmert said the claim that the arrangement was authorized by the NCAA's general counsel is not true.
"In fact, evidence shows the General Counsel's Office specifically told the enforcement staff -- on at least two occasions prior to any arrangements being made with the attorney -- that they could not use Shapiro's attorney for that purpose," Emmert said. "As a result, the external investigation is solely focused on the behavior within and the environment of the enforcement program."
A source told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that the latest development is a "huge mess" but also claimed that it likely will not jeopardize the NCAA's overall investigation of Miami.
"It's another delay," the source told OTL. "This case has been dragging on forever."
Miami president Donna Shalala, in a statement released through the university, said she is "frustrated, disappointed and concerned" that the NCAA may have compromised the investigation.
"As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigator hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case," Shalala said.
The Hurricanes' athletic compliance practices have been probed by the NCAA for nearly two years. Allegations of wrongdoing involving Miami's football and men's basketball programs became widely known in August 2011, when Yahoo! Sports published accusations brought by Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year term in federal prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Miami has self-imposed two postseason bans in response to the investigation. The Hurricanes would have played in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this past season, meaning they could have qualified for the Discover Orange Bowl.
ACC commissioner John Swofford on Thursday lauded the way Miami has cooperated with the NCAA throughout the inquiry.
"Miami's cooperation throughout this process should be commended," Swofford said. "They've been forthright and diligent in their efforts to fully cooperate with the NCAA. While it's unfortunate and extremely concerning that this has transpired, we respect the actions taken by President Emmert to launch an external review of the enforcement process."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.