Agent for NFL players arrested, charged with mail fraud

The agent for a handful of NFL players has been charged with mail fraud and accused of trying to swindle his clients out of millions of dollars he claimed would be invested in 13 Burger King franchises across Virginia.

Vinnie Porter, who is certified by the NFL Players Association and listed as the agent for six players, including New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray, was arrested along with Joseph Vaccaro, a New York-based financial adviser. The arrests late in 2014 were first reported by the website The Smoking Gun, which also reported they have pleaded innocent and are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 2 - the day after the Super Bowl.

According to a federal complaint filed in San Diego, the two told their clients that they needed $20 million to buy 50 percent of the fast food franchises even though the actual cost for the whole deal was $16 million. The two, along with a third person working with the FBI as a confidential informant, were to split the extra $4 million and then continue to draw profits through their concealed half-ownership.

Although Porter is listed on the NFLPA website as Gray's agent, The Smoking Gun quoted Porter as saying Gray recently fired him. Porter, who did not respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment, is listed as the representative for five other NFL players, mostly on practice squads; the NFLPA site says he has negotiated eight NFL contracts.

The players' union said it had been in contact with law enforcement on the issue. ''We are reviewing the facts and will take appropriate action,'' NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said.

Vaccaro is not certified by the NFLPA as a financial adviser, Atallah said.

Porter was a co-founder of Elevate Sports Management along with Alex Hicks, the son of former Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks. The company also represents baseball players, including Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Zake Spruill.

Vaccaro is the founder of Dynasty Management, which bills itself as ''a state of the art business management platform for athletes and entertainers.'' The firm's website lists as a ''client relationship director'' Leonard Marshall, a defensive lineman who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants in 1987 and '91.

According to the complaint, Vaccaro and Porter were recorded telling the confidential informant that they could raise $20 million for the $16 million deal, clearing $4 million immediately and another $2.5 million a year in profits.

''My big thing is, these guys would (expletive) us in a heartbeat,'' Vaccaro was quoted as saying. ''So if I'm going to have a player, I'm going to make as much money as I can make because I run the risk of him firing me at any time for no reason.''

The informant asked if they were ''cool not disclosing, not telling, lying, whatever you want to call it, about the kickbacks, the structure, anything like that.''

''Yeah,'' Porter responded, ''we'd all be committing suicide.''

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