St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn has been accused of fraudulently extracting nearly $300,000 in expenses from his former agent, this according to an amended lawsuit filed in circuit court in St. Charles County, Mo., earlier this month.
The lawsuit, part of a yearlong legal battle between agent Carl Carey and Quinn, preceded last week's hearing in Alexandria, Va., between the two parties before NFL Players Association arbitrator, Roger Kaplan. Kaplan will decide whether Quinn owes Carey up to $282,000 in commission on the $9.4 million rookie contract the player signed with the Rams in July 2011. Carey contends that Quinn wrongfully terminated him in favor of another agency, Impact Sports, but only after receiving as much money and as many services from Carey as possible.
[Related: Robert Quinn charged with drunken driving]
In a related and also amended federal court case filed in North Carolina last April, Carey alleges his firing – which occurred eight days before Quinn signed his deal with the Rams – was a direct result of a conspiracy. The earlier lawsuit alleges that Quinn's new agent, Impact's Tony Fleming, his partner Mitch Frankel, Quinn's girlfriend Christina White, and New York Giants player Marvin Austin (a college teammate of Quinn's) intended to induce the player to terminate Carey as his representative.
In addition to the alleged conspiracy, Carey has accused Fleming, Frankel, White and Austin of slander, unjust enrichment, client poaching and unfair methods of competition.
Although Carey's claims against Fleming, Frankel, White and Austin have yet to be fully adjudicated, the dispute gives the public a rarely available window into the tactics allegedly employed by some agents and others involved in the high-stakes recruitment of top-tier NFL prospects. It also reveals how quickly some young players saddle themselves with substantial debt prior to entering the NFL.
Because the NFLPA requires agents to submit to arbitration on contract-related issues, disputes with players or other agents have historically been heard by NFLPA arbitrators in largely private proceedings. But while the NFL was in a lockout last year, the NFLPA decertified and suspended their agent regulation system, leaving agents to settle their legal disputes in the courts if they saw fit. The resultant litigation in Carey vs. Quinn and company created a public record that sheds light on how divisive contract disputes related to player recruitment can be.
Carey expressed confidence in the NFLPA arbitration process and his ability to recoup what he believes is owed to him – which court documents indicate stands at more than $570,000 – but also conveyed his appreciation for the ability to utilize the courts to shine a light on just how bad things have gotten in the agent industry.
"I guess the unfortunate thing I've seen recently is that because so many unethical games are played by agents trying to sign players, now the players have become jaded as well," said Carey, who claims to have provided financial assistance, training costs and other benefits to Quinn prior to getting fired. "Now they're trying to join in the game in an unethical way, and even more so than years ago they are becoming quite astute at getting as much as they can financially out of agents and others. Both sides are operating in a very unethical way, and it's almost becoming a war between the agents and the prospective NFL players."
One of the interesting revelations that came to the fore in the volley of court documents is that at least three people close to Quinn, including his parents, submitted affidavits in support of Carey's position.
Those affidavits allege Quinn – who was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA in October of 2010 for receiving $5,642 worth of jewelry, travel, and other benefits and providing false information to NCAA investigators – may also have been receiving money from agents and their representatives while still a student-athlete at North Carolina.
Someone with close ties to Quinn, whose affidavit was shared with Y! Sports on the condition of maintaining the drafter's anonymity, indicated that Quinn obtained the individual's bank account information in order to facilitate "seven to 10" deposits of $500 to $2,000 each. According to the affidavit, those deposits began in the spring of 2010 during the latter portion of the player's sophomore year.
That same affidavit indicated that while Quinn would not divulge the identity of the individuals depositing that money, he had mentioned Fleming's name prior to the deposits being made, stating he was going to "hit up Tone for more cash" in early 2010.
"Everyone knows that anybody can make up false and ridiculous allegations in litigation," said Michael Tein, whose Lewis Tein PL firm serves as outside counsel to Impact Sports. "Impact Sports looks forward to proving our case and disproving theirs in court. Impact abides by the highest ethical standards and will continue to be an example of that in the business of sports."
For Carey's part, he indicates the allegations against Fleming and Impact are anything but frivolous and references a "substantial amount of evidence" that will be revealed to support his claims. But more important than his own dispute with Quinn and the others, Carey says, are the broader implications for young athletes who he believes are falling victim to an increasingly unethical industry.
"Kids accepting extra benefits while they are still playing at the university is certainly a troubling issue," said Carey, who represents former UNC standout and current Chicago Bear Julius Peppers. "But I think the bigger picture is if an agent is breaking rules in the recruitment of prospective professional athletes, once that young man signs with that agent, it's not like the agent all of the sudden becomes honest. Now this young man has a dishonest individual coordinating his business affairs and all too often these kids wake up 10 years down the line only to realize that all their money is gone."
A trial date in Carey's lawsuit against Quinn has been set for January 2013.
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