FBI involved in Pitino extortion claim

LOUISVILLE, Ky. " The FBI is investigating the estranged wife of Louisville's equipment manager regarding extortion allegations leveled by coach Rick Pitino, her attorney said Sunday.

Attorney Thomas Clay said he spoke with the FBI about the matter last week but had no further comment. He represents Karen Sypher, the wife of longtime equipment manager Tim Sypher.

Clay acknowleged Karen Sypher was contacted by the FBI after Pitino filed a complaint last month that he was being targeted for extortion.

"I can't be more specific than they talked to her," Clay said. "Yes, there could be a criminal prosecution."

FBI spokesman David Beyer confirmed there was an ongoing investigation into Pitino's complaint and that no other law enforcement agencies were involved. Beyer did not name the target of the investigation.

Pitino said in a statement Saturday night that he planned to keep the matter private but was forced into action when the individual " whom he did not name " decided to go to the media. The statement did not detail the nature of the threats.

"I recently learned that the individual behind this extortion attempt has already gone to the media with false, defamatory and outrageous allegations in an attempt to pressure me to cave in to this scheme," Pitino said.

WDRB-TV in Louisville said on its Saturday night telecast that it has conducted an interview with Karen Sypher but chose not to put it on the air.

News director Barry Fulmer said Sunday he's not sure when " or even if " the tape will be shown.

"Officially, I don't feel comfortable airing something that I can't prove yet," Fulmer said. "I didn't want us to be irresponsible and start throwing out stories and accusations that I couldn't confirm. That's really all there is to it."

The Syphers are in the process of getting a divorce, Clay said.

"I am devastated by the bizarre allegations that my estranged wife is making against Coach Pitino and myself," Tim Sypher said in a statement. "I intend to defend the allegations vigorously."

Pitino's attorney Steve Pence did not immediately return a phone message Sunday from The Associated Press.

Tim Sypher has worked with Pitino for the past 12 years. He served as Pitino's personal assistant with the Boston Celtics from 1997-2001, then followed Pitino to Louisville in 2001 to become the team's equipment manager.

Tim Sypher previously worked as an investigator for the state of Massachusetts for a decade. He and Karen Sypher have a daughter. Karen Sypher also has four sons.

Pitino just finished his eighth season in Louisville. The Cardinals won both the Big East regular season and conference tournament championships before falling to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament regional finals.


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