Four Georgia football players, including promising safety Tray Matthews, have been charged with multiple counts of theft by deception and bonded out of the Clarke County Jail on Monday night after being booked.
Also charged are defensive linemen Jonathan Taylor and James DeLoach and wide receiver Uriah LeMay.
University of Georgia police allege that 11 student tuition checks were drawn from the UGA Athletic Association account and were presented for deposit or cashed twice, according to a UGA police incident report. The players were “basically double-dipping,” by receiving the funds twice, in the words of UGA police chief Jimmy Williamson.
The checks were each in the amount of $71.50 and the total loss is valued at $786.50.
All charges are misdemeanors since they are of less than $500 value.
Matthews, a sophomore from Newnan, is facing three counts. Taylor and DeLoach are facing two counts and LeMay four.
Matthews, Taylor and DeLoach are alleged to have electronically deposited the checks through a mobile banking app into three different Wells Fargo accounts and then cashed the same paper check at an unknown local convenience store with an account at SunTrust bank.
LeMay ‘s roommate, also a UGA athlete, initially cashed four checks electronically and then discarded them. LeMay is alleged to have taken the checks that were trashed and presented it for cash or deposit through a Wells Fargo account.
The news comes on the eve of Georgia opening spring football practices on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m aware of the situation and it will be handled in an appropriate way,” coach Mark Richt said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
A Georgia assistant athletic director who works in finance met with UGA police on March 3 to report the checks cashed twice and police began to investigate. Warrants were issued for the arrests of the players on Monday, after students returned from spring break, and a Clarke County Magistrate Court judge signed the warrant.
“We normally don’t take out warrants on students during spring break because we’re afraid they may get stopped,” Williamson said. “I don’t want one of them to get stopped for some traffic violation and then that county lock them up. We would do that for all students.”
The UGA finance and administration accounts payable department and UGA Athletic Assocation accounts payable department noticed the same check numbers were appearing twice, Williamson said.
Williamson already got an email Tuesday morning from someone wondering why UGA athletics would turn in their own players.
He said UGA athletics reported the case “because it’s a fraud issue so they have to account for any type of money. From an accounting standpoint, they get audited every year. And No. 2, it’s a compliance issue. There are athletes that received double funding and they want to make sure people know it wasn’t them giving double. They’re almost obligated to report whether they wanted to or not. I’m not saying they didn’t want to.”
UGA athletic officials declined to comment about the case on Tuesday.
Matthews was the talk of spring practices last year and started six games during a freshman season in which he was slowed by a hamstring injury. He made a career-high 12 tackles against Auburn. He had 36 tackles, one interception and a forced fumble last season.
Georgia’s defense already lost starting safety and third-leading tackler Josh Harvey-Clemons this offseason when he was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Harvey-Clemons had served one game of a four-game suspension after being suspended for the opener last season after an incident involving marijuana in his dorm room.
Taylor, a redshirt sophomore from Jenkins County High School, had nine tackles, a sack and a pass breakup in 10 games last season. He had seven tackles and two sacks in last year’s G-Day spring game.
DeLoach, a junior from Jenkins County who was a high school teammate of Taylor, had four tackles in five games.
LeMay, from Matthews, N.C., is a redshirt freshman receiver and brother of former Georgia quarterback Christian LeMay.