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How a Gainesville food company exposed the Gators' fraud scandal

(AP Photo/John Raoux)
Published Sep. 30, 2017

Jeremiah Loper didn't plan to make the first report in a criminal investigation hanging over the University of Florida's nationally ranked football program.

Loper, 40, said he wanted to work things out with the college student before telling the authorities about fraudulent charges made to his Gainesville food delivery company.

So Loper emailed Gators offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort directly: It looks like you've been committing credit card fraud on our website. If you don't give us a call, we'll call the police.

"I tried to give him an opportunity to make it right, you know?" Loper said.

Telfort never responded, Loper said, thus setting off a credit card fraud case that has nine Gators facing a total of 66 felony complaints.

This wasn't the first time Loper's business, 352 Delivery, was the apparent victim of credit card fraud. The company had to tighten its security after losing several thousand dollars this spring.

When Loper saw some charge-backs from July, he began to dig deeper. Loper said it looked as if Telfort would try one credit card and address, then another, and another, until he successfully ordered his bunless burger or junk food.

"He was going down a list," Loper said. "All in all, it was pretty obvious when I saw that. This is credit card fraud."

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

Loper gave Telfort a few days to respond to his email. Soon enough, it didn't matter.

On Aug. 13, the Gators announced that Telfort and six others were suspended for misusing school-related financial cards at the bookstore.

"I'm reading the article — there's his name," Loper said. "Man, so this is bigger than whatever I saw."

Loper reported Telfort to the University of Florida Police Department the next day. Twenty-three of the 30 felony complaints Telfort faces stem from his interaction with the delivery company. Telfort has entered a written not guilty plea, and his attorney, Peter Schoenthal, has declined to comment.

Because the State Attorney's Office is still investigating, many details are not yet public. Nine Gators — including Telfort, standout receiver Antonio Callaway and starting running back Jordan Scarlett — are accused of using stolen credit cards to fund their bookstore debit accounts.

While Loper lost $89.48, he said that wasn't the biggest reason why he called police. If his company was affected, how many other local businesses were, too? And what about the people whose cards were stolen?

"That could be their food money," Loper said. "It could be taken from them and spent on Beats headphones."

The players remain indefinitely suspended from the No. 21-ranked Gators, who lead the SEC East heading into Saturday's home game against Vanderbilt. Coach Jim McElwain said their status with the team won't change until the legal system runs its course — a process that will take weeks, if not months.

Loper said UF police asked him if he was sure he wanted to pursue the case because of the "blowback" he might receive. Loper said yes.

RELATED: Victims of Florida Gator credit card scandal speak out

He understands that some fans will be upset, because he's a fan, too. He has lived in Gainesville for years. His fiancée is a UF student. His father works there.

Loper wants the Gators to win, but only with integrity. And that, Loper said, means dismissing Telfort and the eight others.

"I definitely don't want them on the team," Loper said. "They're criminals."

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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