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Missouri U.S. Attorney eyeing indictment

Sunday, December 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:14 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The specter of Ricky Clemons continues to haunt the Missouri men’s basketball program.

Now there are federal investigators involved, but the U.S. Attorney’s office would not elaborate on whether the recent indictment of a community college coach in Great Bend, Kan. will result in a subsequent investigation of MU practices.

Ryan Wolf, the former basketball coach at Barton County Community College, was charged last week with misappropriating more than $120,000 of government funds by illegally providing financial help and false academic credentials to several athletes, including Clemons and former Missouri guard Randy Pulley.

The 36-count indictment, issued Dec. 14 by U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren, includes allegations that Wolf provided false information for money received from Pell grants, federal work-study programs, campus work-study programs and federally guaranteed student loans.

According to the indictment, Clemons was one of the beneficiaries of the fraudulent applications.

Clemons enrolled at BCCC in the summer of 2002 to complete eligibility requirements needed for his subsequent enrollment at MU. According to the indictment, at least some of the credit Clemons obtained at BCCC was also fraudulent.

Clemons played guard for the Tigers during the 2002-2003 basketball season.

In August 2002, Clemons applied for federal financial aid at MU and was given a Pell Grant.

Sam Fleury, spokesman for the MU athletic department, said the U.S. Department of Education investigated the applications, interviewing Lee Rashman, MU’s director of men’s basketball operations, and Lane Odom, a former MU assistant coach. Rashman helped Clemons with the financial aid process, and Odom signed a letter supporting Clemons’ request for independent status. The letter backed Clemons’ claim that his mother was dead, but she is alive.

The investigation concluded without charges being filed. Odom resigned from MU on May 11, amid allegations of Missouri recruiting violations, the most serious of which involved Clemons.

Fleury said the school had no official response except to confirm that the investigation was conducted and ended without charges.

Melgren said the investigation at MU was not related to the indictment of Wolf.

“By and large this indictment would pretty much conclude this investigation,” Melgren said.

A spokesman for Todd Graves, the U.S. Attorney for Missouri’s western district, said his office was paying attention to how the indictment plays out, but could not comment on how the proceedings could effect any action that would involve MU.

“We are aware of what is going on in Kansas,” spokesman Dan Ledford said. “But as far as taking any official interest in that case or how that might effect any potential action by our office, it would be improper to comment at this time. We can confirm that no charges have been filed, but federal regulations prevent us from discussing any potential investigation or persons under investigation.”

A report released by the NCAA on Nov. 4, after a 13-month investigation, found numerous instances of recruiting infractions including improper benefits for players and inadequate examination of compliance rules. That report did not mention falsification of aid applications.

The NCAA findings did mention Rashman in one of the most serious instances of infraction. According to the report, Rashman collected funds from men’s basketball student athletes and facilitated the payment of Clemons’s $1,000 bail bond. Clemons was arrested and charged with domestic assault on Jan. 17, 2003, accused of choking his girlfriend, Jessica Bunge.

In recorded phone conversations from jail and later interviews, Clemons accused Missouri coaches of providing him with cash payments throughout his time at MU. The NCAA report did not find evidence of cash payments. Clemons was dismissed from the team and his scholarship was revoked on July 22, 2003.


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