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Agencies begin inquiry in Mayo case

Former advisor to basketball star is said to be focus of tax evasion and fraud probe.

June 04, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

The FBI, IRS and U.S. attorney's office have begun a joint investigation into potential income tax evasion and fraud stemming from the alleged misuse of charitable organization funds by basketball star O.J. Mayo's former advisor, an attorney familiar with the investigation said Tuesday night.

"They seem to have made a high priority out of this and seem very eager to work it," said Anthony Salerno, a Los Angeles criminal attorney representing Louis Johnson, a former Mayo confidant.

Johnson alleges L.A. events promoter Rodney Guillory accepted more than $200,000 in cash and benefits from Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management and funneled a portion of that money to Mayo before and during his one season at USC.

Salerno said criminal charges were unlikely but "theoretically" possible to be filed against Johnson, an unemployed former sportswriter who made his accusations against Mayo and Guillory last month in an ESPN "Outside the Lines" report.

The inquiry is expected to last at least several months, Salerno said, and would focus on allegations "stemming from the original interview that Louis gave ESPN. It's fair to say that for now, that's the starting point. They may very well find more things."

An agent with the California attorney general's office said last week that his organization was investigating whether funds from a sickle cell anemia charity were used to make illegal payments to Mayo.

Johnson's allegations have also sparked investigations by the NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference. Mayo and Duffy have denied any wrongdoing and Guillory has been unavailable for comment.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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