RALEIGH — Georgia sports agent Terry S. Watson used bundles of cash in efforts to sign future professional athletes while they were still playing at schools in North Carolina and South Carolina, according to interviews and court documents.
With charges now filed against two of five expected defendants, a picture is emerging of an alleged network led by Watson that worked to secure athletes as clients from the top ranks of college sports. Authorities say it was done in violation of laws that prohibit agents from paying amateur college players.
Athletes at three schools other than UNC have been named in court papers: football players from the University of South Carolina, the University of Florida and N.C. Central University in Durham.
Court documents name Chris Culliver, a standout player who went from Garner High to South Carolina and then on to the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
The investigator wrote in a January affidavit that text exchanges contained references to what “we believe are illegal wire transfers into bank accounts and packages sent to deliver payments.”
“That belief is based on Watson’s continuous efforts to conceal the transactions,” the investigator wrote. “Two good examples are text messages sent by Watson to Chris Culliver where Watson confirms he has sent money, e.g., ‘What’s up. I did. 550 of it. More to follow soon.’ ”
Watson instructed Culliver to delete the text message, according to the court documents. A spokesman for the 49ers said he could not comment and that Culliver is on injured reserve this season.
The court documents also say money from Watson didn’t just go to athletes — it was allegedly sent to their relatives, girlfriends, friends, and others associated with the athletes. In one instance, Watson apparently had to deal with an upset player after money was sent to a girlfriend who had broken up with him.
The allegations come from various court papers unsealed in recent months, as well as from an interview with a friend of Watson’s and limited comments by Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall, who is prosecuting the case.
Agent prosecutions are rare, and the Watson case is believed to be the first of its kind in North Carolina. Authorities in Alabama, Louisiana and Florida have all prosecuted violations of agent laws in their states in the past two decades.