Florida car dealer says he gave kickbacks to agency for NFL clients

Rand Getlin and Charles Robinson
Yahoo! Sports

SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. – A South Florida luxury auto dealer told Yahoo! Sports that a handful of employees of Rosenhaus Sports Representation accepted tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks or services for steering players to purchase or rent vehicles from his business.

Christopher Pinkow, the operator of Miami-based Icon Auto, alleged some RSR employees directed him to inflate prices on purchases and luxury rentals to NFL players. Pinkow claims he then kicked the inflated difference back to those RSR employees in one of several forms, including cash, deposits, goods or services.

"A number of their employees squeezed me," Pinkow said. "If it wasn't for money, it was for free services. It was mostly chauffeured driving services, whether it be a night on the town or heading to the airport. And with the amount that some of these guys travel, it's very frequent."

"In my business, giving a tip, commission, kickback – whatever you want to label it as – is a customary thing. It would be no different than me giving a concierge at a hotel a $100 bill as a referral fee. In my business, it's no big deal. In their [agent] business? I don't know."

NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus – founder of RSR – declined to comment on Pinkow's allegations. A spokesman for the NFL Players Association did not return multiple messages seeking comment.

RSR has one of the largest client rosters in the NFL, including such stars as San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and others. Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports that RSR regularly referred clients to Pinkow when they were seeking to purchase or rent luxury vehicles.

Pinkow is currently facing federal tax fraud charges unrelated to his alleged dealings with RSR. In March, he met with two Yahoo! Sports reporters and allowed them to review a cache of financial records which he claimed were derived from delivering monies to RSR employees. He later turned over bank deposit slips, a cashier's check and an automobile transaction record totaling more than $40,000 that allegedly went to RSR employees.

One former RSR client, Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston, also told Yahoo! Sports that when he pursued buying a vehicle, he was directed by RSR employees to reach out to Pinkow.

"I went to them and said I wanted to buy a car," Pinkston said of his former agents at RSR, whom he fired last year. "They said don't worry we have a car guy, we'll get it taken care of.

"It's very clear what RSR was doing with Pinkow. Now it's the NFLPA's job to figure out what they're going to do about it. They're either going to do something about it, or it's going to get swept under the rug."

If Pinkow was in fact delivering cash or services to RSR employees in exchange for inflated prices for vehicles brokered to RSR clients, it could violate NFL Players Association regulations. NFLPA rules state agents cannot engage in conduct that would create a conflict of interest with clients. The rules further state that agents "shall" be held responsible for the conduct of their employees if such conduct is found to be in violation of NFLPA regulations.

At least two players represented by RSR hired attorneys to resolve disputes with Pinkow over car deals. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons obtained a $329,773 default judgment against Pinkow in a dispute related to an Aston Martin. Pinkow also reached a settlement for $16,000 with Washington Redskins cornerback Jerome Murphy in relation to a vehicle.

Pinkow said that he did five other car transactions with Timmons and that the issue related to the Aston Martin was overblown.

"I sold him a black-on-black Aston Martin DB9 coupe – exactly what he asked me for," Pinkow said. "He wanted the car delivered to Pennsylvania, I went ahead and did so. After a few months and after he put 3,800 miles on the car he told me he wanted a newer one."

Pinkow said RSR employees pressured him to pay Timmons the money he felt he was owed, but Pinkow balked because of how many miles the player had put on the car.

"This ain't a pair of Nikes and this ain't Foot Locker," Pinkow said of the Aston Martin sold to Timmons. "This is a car, not a pair of kicks. Yes, I understand that [RSR employees] refer me a bunch of business, but that's $125,000. Why should I take that hit?"

Timmons responded through his Miami-based attorney Aaron Resnick, who said the player is continuing to seek a refund from Pinkow.

"He intends to do everything within the law to collect on [the judgment] and be made whole," Resnick said.

While Pinkow acknowledged he had disputes with a handful of RSR clients, he says he provided stellar service to many more.

"I've done hundreds of transactions with Rosenhaus players," Pinkow said. "But you only hear from the two or three that there are issues with. You don't hear about the players where I got them a car for $20,000 less or that I personally delivered it to their home in another state."

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