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Report: Agents Gave Bush Cash

Running back was lavished with money and expensive hotel stays while at USC, according to Yahoo! Sports.

September 15, 2006|David Wharton and Gary Klein | Times Staff Writers

The Reggie Bush case took another turn Thursday with a published report alleging that marketing agents lavished the tailback with expensive hotel stays and cash while he was at USC.

Bush allegedly stayed at San Diego and Las Vegas hotels before the 2005 season, the bills paid by a fledgling marketing company previously linked to his parents, Yahoo! Sports reported.

The Internet site said that documents showed Bush's family also accepted travel accommodations from an employee of another marketing agent, Mike Ornstein, who later signed Bush as a client.

Ornstein declined to speak to a reporter and Bush's attorney could not be reached for comment.

The athlete, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, has repeatedly said he and his family did nothing wrong.

Yahoo! Sports quoted New Jersey memorabilia dealer Bob DeMartino as saying Ornstein claimed to have paid Bush's family $1,500 a week.

In a telephone interview with The Times last spring, DeMartino expressed his dislike for Ornstein and claimed to have damaging information about the agent, which he declined to reveal.

"He's made a lot of enemies," DeMartino said at the time. He did not return a telephone call Thursday evening.

Some of the new allegations involve New Era Sports & Entertainment, a fledgling company that hoped to sign Bush as its first client.

Earlier this year, an attorney for New Era claimed that Bush's stepfather and mother, LaMar and Denise Griffin, received cash advances from the company's founders. The Griffins also allegedly failed to pay rent while living in a house owned by New Era founder Michael Michaels.

Bush ultimately chose Ornstein as his marketing agent and New Era never got off the ground.

In detailing further accusations, Yahoo! Sports reported that Michaels paid $1,574.86 for Bush to stay at the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego from March 4-6 last year and $623.63 for a stay at the Venetian Resort & Casino in Las Vegas later that month.

The report said that New Era gave approximately $13,000 to Bush for a 1996 Chevrolet Impala that was registered in his name.

Brian Watkins, the attorney representing New Era in a planned $3.2-million lawsuit against Bush and his family, said: "I'm not in a position to confirm or deny any of that."

As for Ornstein, Yahoo! Sports reported that when Bush's family traveled to Berkeley to see USC play California last November, more than $800 in airfare and limousine costs were charged to the credit card of an employee of the Santa Monica-based agent.

The allegations, if true, could represent violations of several NCAA rules. USC could be held accountable if investigators conclude there was a lack of institutional control.

USC officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing NCAA investigation. The report said that during the 2005 season, USC running backs coach Todd McNair knew of Bush's relationship with New Era and that Bush worried Coach Pete Carroll might find out too.

McNair could not be reached for comment. Carroll said: "I didn't know anything."

The coach later added: "All I can say is we can't comment. If we're asked to help, we'll cooperate in every way."

gary.klein@latimes.com

david.wharton@latimes.com

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