The California Attorney General's office is investigating the possible illegal use of an American Express card account that was opened under the guise of being issued to a sickle cell charity, but was reportedly used to provide thousands of dollars in benefits for former USC freshman guard O.J. Mayo, a state official told ESPN "Outside the Lines" reporter Kelly Naqi.
Danny Kim, a special agent with the bureau of investigations for the California Department of Justice, says he was assigned to open a case and investigate possible charitable trust violations by Tony Hicks (who also uses the alias "Amonra Elohim," according to federal court records), the CEO of the National Organization of Sickle Cell Prevention and Awareness Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in the Los Angeles area.
"We are looking for any financial information that is tied to the sickle cell foundation," Kim said. "I'm just going to follow the money. I'll have to subpoena or get a warrant to get whatever information I can get."
As reported earlier by "Outside the Lines," Hicks is a convicted felon and longtime friend of Rodney Guillory, who was Mayo's mentor and close advisor for the past five years.
According to Louis Johnson, a former member of Mayo's inner circle from the summer of 2006 until last March, Hicks (or Elohim) had an American Express card registered to the sickle cell charity. Hicks added Guillory to the account and provided him a card to use.
Johnson says Guillory understood he was to use the card "for emergency purposes only." But shortly before the fall semester began at USC, Guillory used the card to purchase a hotel room in Hermosa Beach for Mayo and a girlfriend to stay in, as well as thousands of dollars of clothing for Mayo at a California clothing store called Men's Land, a flat-screen television for Mayo's dorm room and meals at various restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Johnson provided "Outside the Lines" with the receipts from the purchases. One sales clerk at Men's Land remembers Guillory paying for Mayo's purchase on at least one occasion.
ESPN approached Hicks and asked him why the foundation gave Guillory an American Express card. "That's personal information," Hicks responded. When asked why Hicks let Guillory spend thousands of dollars on Mayo using the card, Hicks replied, "No comment."
Johnson said Guillory received money from BDA Sports Management -- a sports agency based in California -- to maintain his close relationship with Mayo while Mayo was in high school, with the expectation he would sign with BDA when he turned pro. Johnson said Guillory also used some of the money from BDA to give to Mayo.
On April 17, Mayo announced that he was entering the NBA draft and had signed Calvin Andrews, BDA's senior vice president, to represent him. Andrews and BDA chairman and CEO Bill Duffy declined ESPN's repeated requests for an interview. Mayo and BDA have since parted ways in light of the "Outside the Lines" investigation.
Johnson said that at the time Guillory was using the American Express card to make purchases for Mayo, Mayo did not know that the card was issued to a charity. Mayo learned of that possibility sometime in December, but when Mayo asked Guillory about it, Guillory "said that it was all made up, it was all fabricated, it was all a lie," according to Johnson. Mayo has denied receiving any benefits from Guillory.
When asked by "Outside the Lines" on April 17 about providing Mayo with benefits, or about his use of the American Express sickle cell card to provide benefits to Mayo, Guillory replied, "No comment."
On May 13, after confronting Guillory about some of the information provided in the "Outside the Lines" report, Mayo severed his close relationship with Guillory in "a face-to-face confrontation" in Los Angeles, according to a source familiar with the conversation. Mayo told ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Thursday that he speaks with Guillory "on and off."
Kim says the case, if there is any wrongdoing, is most likely "a misdemeanor, a misuse of funds."
When asked what Mayo's culpability might be, Kim would not speculate.
"I don't think we want to go there," Kim said. "I don't know if there's any penal code charges we can charge him [with] for [accepting goods from Guillory with that card]."