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North Hills grad Johnson named in Miami (Fla.) probe

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

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Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011
 

Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami (Fla.) booster who's serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, told Yahoo! Sports he provided impermissible benefits to 72 of the university's football players, including North Hills graduate Andrew Johnson, and other athletes between 2002-10.

Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a list of players. He also claimed he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, restaurant meals and in one case, an abortion for a woman impregnated by a player.

Andrew Johnson, who played at Central Catholic for three seasons before transferring to North Hills and graduating in 2004, was among the players mentioned in the report.

"I never got nothing," Johnson told the Tribune-Review late Tuesday night. "(Shapiro's) name was on the players' lounge. Other than that, I didn't know too much about him. I've seen his face around, but I never had contact with him."

Shapiro alleges he provided multiple benefits to Johnson during the running back's time with the Hurricanes: Small cash gifts totaling about $500; food, drinks and entertainment at Shapiro's $2.7 million Miami Beach home; and tickets to multiple Miami Heat games.

"I can't speak for (my teammates), but on my end that's not true," said Johnson, a West Allegheny assistant coach who owns a beauty supplies store in Aliquippa and is a partner in A&J Ribs in Market Square. "Somebody is just trying to bring down the program."

Asked if he ever heard of teammates receiving improper benefits, Johnson said, "Nobody ever talked to me about it."

Other notable players accused of being involved include Jacory Harris, Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor.

"Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami," Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports. "With access to the clubs, access to the strip joints. My house. My boat. We're talking about high school football players. Not anybody can just get into the clubs or strip joints."

Johnson said he wasn't upset by his name being connected to Shapiro.

"I didn't get money. I'm not in school anymore. It's not affecting me directly. I just feel bad for the program," he said. "No need to get upset about something that's not true. I'm not in school anymore. I still do love that school, love that program. He's doing everything he can to bring it down. From what people were saying on Yahoo!, it looks like what he's doing is working."

The NCAA questioned university president Donna Shalala and athletic director Shawn Eichorst this week.

"I can tell you what I think is going to happen," Shapiro told Miami television station WFOR from federal prison in Atlanta. "Death penalty."

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