Sunday, July 15, 2018
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Antonio Callaway, six other Gators enter agreement in Florida credit-card fraud scandal

The Gators’ credit card fraud scandal took a step closer to resolution Thursday when the State Attorney’s Office announced that seven suspended players agreed to programs that could lead to the dismissal of their felony complaints.

But don’t expect to see any of them back for Florida’s rivalry game against No. 3 Georgia on Saturday.

Star receiver Antonio Callaway and starting running back Jordan Scarlett are among the seven players who agreed to pre-trial intervention programs. If they complete 12 months of voluntary probation, their fraud cases will be dropped.

Defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis, receiver Rick Wells, linebacker Ventrell Miller, linebacker James Houston and lineman Richerd Desir-Jones also agreed to the program.

Felony charges remain pending for the other two suspended players, defensive lineman Jordan Smith and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort.

RELATED: Nine Florida football players, 62 felony complaints in fraud scandal

All nine are accused of using stolen credit cards over the summer to fund their bookstore accounts. They then used the money to buy electronics, according to sworn complaints from the University of Florida Police Department.

Pre-trial intervention is common in cases like this. Other terms typically include performing community service and paying court fees and restitution. State Attorney Bill Cervone said last month that Smith and Telfort might not qualify for the program because of the extent of the allegations against them.

The agreements must be formalized by a judge, with some court dates already scheduled for next month.

While Thursday’s announcement is a major step in the case’s resolution, it remains unclear when — or if — any of the players can rejoin the team.

"We’ve been made aware of some updates in the legal process, and there are still steps to go that include the University student conduct code," coach Jim McElwain said in a statement.

RELATED: How a Gainesville food company exposed the Gators’ fraud scandal

The student conduct process generally does not begin until the criminal case is resolved. It remains unclear when the conduct process might start, or how long it might take. Because the players have been away from the program since August, they will likely need time to readjust to the team after being reinstated.

According to sworn police complaints, the case began when Telfort started using stolen credit cards to fund his bookstore account in late June. He also used that information to purchase food through a Gainesville delivery company, 352 Delivery.

Eight other players began using stolen information — sometimes from the same victims — afterward, according to the complaints. The UF bookstore began noticing an unusual amount of disputed charges in August. When the bookstore noticed that the charges involved athletes, it first contacted the University Athletic Association and the compliance department, according to the complaints.

RELATED: Victims of Florida Gator credit card scandal speak out

Seven of the players — including Callaway and Telfort — were suspended on Aug. 13. The next day, the owner of 352 Delivery contacted UF police and alleged that Telfort had committed credit card fraud. UF police met with bookstore employees on Aug. 15, according to the complaints.

As the investigation grew, Scarlett and Wells were suspended, too, three days before the season-opening loss to Michigan.

UF police filed felony complaints against all nine last month, with combined damages exceeding $18,000. Smith also faces a complaint from the Gainesville Police Department, which alleges he used a stolen card to pay his rent.

UF has struggled in their absence. The Gators are off to a 3-3 start and in jeopardy of missing a bowl game for the second time in the last quarter century. Without Callaway, the Gators rank No. 116 nationally with five passing touchdowns.

Thursday’s news is the latest twist in a bizarre week for the Gators.

On Monday, McElwain mentioned that people associated with his program have received death threats. The UAA issued a statement a few hours later, saying administrators met with McElwain but he "offered no additional details." On Wednesday, McElwain expressed regret for revealing the threats.

UF has four remaining games after this weekend’s Georgia game in Jacksonville, including the Nov. 25 regular-season finale against Florida State.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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