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Published: Friday, 4/29/2011

Buckeyes received more than tattoos

Tattoo parlor owner traded cash, SUV


COLUMBUS -- Transactions between Ohio State football players and a tattoo-parlor owner were far more extensive than previously made public by OSU officials.

A letter sent by the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 7, which was obtained by the Dispatch, shows that suspected drug dealer Ed Rife bought or traded for tattoos 36 different football-related items since 2008.

However, only some of the transactions were considered violations by the NCAA, which suspended five players for five games of the 2011 season for improper benefits and preferential treatment.

"There may be items in this letter that do not constitute NCAA violations," OSU spokesman Jim Lynch said in explaining why all the items were not previously disclosed. "The NCAA had this exact list as they prepared their notice of allegations."

In the letter, the Justice Department said, "There is no allegation that any of these players were involved in or had knowledge of Mr. Rife's drug-trafficking activities."

On Monday, Ohio State made public the NCAA charges against coach Jim Tressel, who knew since last spring about his players selling memorabilia and getting deals on tattoos but failed to report the violations to his bosses or the NCAA.

The NCAA considers the case against the players closed unless new information is discovered.

The case against Tressel, however, is ongoing.

In the notice of allegations delivered to Ohio State Thursday, the NCAA listed 14 different items that quarterback Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Daniel Herron, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas sold or traded to Rife, the West Side tattoo-parlor owner who is the focus of an ongoing federal drug investigation.

Those items included five Big Ten championship rings, three "gold pants" awards (for victories over Michigan), two pairs of pants, a watch, a helmet, a jersey, and a pair of cleats.

The Justice Department said in its Dec. 7 letter that it intended to sell the property it confiscated in the May 1 raid at Rife's house.

"We want to make certain that neither the Ohio State University nor the players involved claim any ownership interest in the items being seized," the letter said.

The letter included seven pages of OSU-related memorabilia taken from Rife's house. Several items he purchased on ebay, such as a 2003 national championship ring that he bought for $7,000.

Rife also received six items as gifts from current football players whose names were blacked out by Ohio State, citing the federal student-privacy law. Those items included shoes, a Rose Bowl plaque, a helmet, and other memorabilia.

NCAA rules do not prohibit athletes from giving away memorabilia.

Fore more of this story, visit www.dispatch.com.

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