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UCF may expel 11 in cell phone case

Eleven players at the University of Central Florida face possible expulsion from school in the theft of up to 1,650 hours of cellular phone air time from AT&T Wireless.

"We are not going to tolerate wrongdoing from our students, even if they are star football players," UCF spokesman David Finnerty said. "They could face being expelled from school if it turns out that they did knowingly break the law."

The university started its own investigation after Secret Service agents arrested junior Patrick Brinson, who practiced with the team last year but never played. He is a former AT&T Wireless employee originally from Miami.

Brinson, 20, was released on his own recognizance after a federal court appearance. He is charged with possessing 15 or more unauthorized access devices with intent to defraud AT&T Wireless. If convicted, he could be fined $250,000 or sentenced to 10 years in prison.

School officials started interviewing the other 11 students. Finnerty said the first four interviewed insisted they bought phones from Brinson thinking they would be billed later.

AT&T Wireless investigators linked the scheme to the team in September when at least seven players called home during a football weekend in Nebraska. All used numbers improperly obtained from AT&T Wireless, court documents say.

According to federal court documents, Brinson was aided by an AT&T employee who was fired. Brinson declined to comment, as did his federally appointed public defender.

_ MIAMI HERALD

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