MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The attorney at the center of the evidence the NCAA removed from its case against the University of Miami said Tuesday the NCAA was not her client and instead said the NCAA was merely a third party paying for some of Shapiro’s legal fees.
“Had I felt the NCAA was doing something wrong on their end, I would never have had any type of relationship with them and never let my client assist them to the level they assist him,” lawyer Maria Elena Perez told CBS4’s Cynthia Demos.
Perez was the focal point of an external review into the NCAA’s investigation into the University of Miami and Nevin Shapiro. Perez represented Shapiro and aided the NCAA by allegedly asking questions during a deposition that were suggested by the NCAA investigator.
The external investigation uncovered that what brought down both Perez and a few people inside the NCAA was her bills for services, which the investigation found totaled more than $50,000. Perez said she’s only been paid $18,000, and does want the rest of her money.
The NCAA had been expecting a much lower bill and when the large bill came in, it sparked questions that led to the investigation.
“If the NCAA wasn’t paying you, would you have asked these questions?” asked CBS4’s Demos.
“The NCAA was basically a third party for Mr. Shapiro,” Perez said. “I’m very clear. I was only going to ask questions with them associated to where there was an overlap.”
Perez said the NCAA was simply paying Shapiro’s legal bills and that anyone could have paid the bills if they had wanted.
“I did not share with the parties who is paying me cause it’s not anyone’s business,” Perez told CBS4. “Just cause you agree to pay someone’s fees, that doesn’t mean you’re my client.”
Perez continued to deny to Demos that she ever did anything wrong during the NCAA’s investigation and suggested that Shapiro was in prison because of his disposition.
“Listen, I play by the rules,” Perez said. “Had I been doing something wrong, I’m sure I would have gotten a call from the bankruptcy court. I understand he’s (Shapiro) is in jail for a Ponzi scheme, but a lot of the reason he is there is because of his good nature.”
When it came to the revelations the NCAA had problems with its investigation, Perez said she was as surprised as everyone else.
“I am shocked at the NCAA’s conduct because I was not aware they were violating any rules,” Perez said. “I know what I was doing was well within the law and my client’s rights.”
Perez said the NCAA’s findings in the external review “gave the appearance of impropriety” and that she was “very disappointed” in how the NCAA’s investigation came off the tracks.
The findings from the NCAA’s external review had all of the evidence gathered through Perez’s bankruptcy interviews and any information gathered from those interviews thrown out of the investigation. It was estimated that cost the NCAA roughly 20 percent of their case against the University of Miami.
Perez said that she “respects” UM President Donna Shalala, but “you live by the sword and die by the sword.”
“I don’t blame her for being upset,” Perez said. “If I were in her shoes, I would feel the same way.”
Perez also said that Nevin Shapiro was “disappointed that something that was a legit process was perverted,” with regards to the NCAA’s investigation into the University of Miami scandal.
When speaking with Demos on Wednesday, Perez said she was the subject of an inquiry from the Florida Bar Association. The Florida Bar said there is an investigation of Perez, but could not give CBS4 specifics of that investigation.