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Jeremy Simon

Basketball star's perks allegedly charged to nonprofit's credit card

College basketball star O.J. Mayo may have enjoyed thousands of dollars in perks, including clothes, a flat-screen television, meals at Los Angeles eateries and a hotel room the former University of Southern California freshman guard shared with a girlfriend -- all paid for with a credit card issued to a nonprofit organization.

The California Attorney General's office is investigating the charges. A special agent with the bureau of investigations for the California Department of Justice told ESPN "Outside the Lines" that he was assigned to open a case and investigate possible charitable trust violations by Tony Hicks, chief executive of L.A.-area nonprofit group National Organization of Sickle Cell Prevention and Awareness Foundation. Federal court records show that Hicks also uses the alias "Amonra Elohim," apparently a clever combination of the name of an Egyptian deity and a Hebrew term for God.

"Outside the Lines" had previously reported that convicted felon Hicks is a longtime friend of Rodney Guillory, who was Mayo's mentor and close adviser 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," ESPN says.

While Johnson says Guillory knew the credit card was to be used for emergency purposes only, authorized account user Guillory had his own unique understanding of what constitutes an emergency. "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," ESPN reports. 

To support his version of events, Johnson was able to supply "Outside the Lines" with receipts from the credit card charges. Additionally, a Men's Land employee recalled at least one instance of Guillory paying for Mayo's clothes.

In response to questioning by ESPN, Hicks said the reason the nonprofit provided Guillory with an American Express card was "personal information." As for why Hicks allowed Guillory to charge thousands of dollars in expenses for Mayo to the credit card, Hicks issued the standard, "no comment."

Johnson said that at the time the charges were made, Mayo was unaware the credit card was issued to a charity. ESPN says Mayo learned that sometime in December. However, when Mayo asked him about that possibility, Guillory "said that it was all made up, it was all fabricated, it was all a lie," according to Johnson. ESPN reports that Mayo has denied receiving any benefits from Guillory.

Where do these charges leave Mayo? "I don't know if there's any penal code charges we can charge him [with] for [accepting goods from Guillory with that card]," the special agent tells ESPN. 

Mayo is bound for the National Basketball Association. If there is any justice for a guy who uses a nonprofit's credit card to lavish gifts on a young hoops prodigy, Guillory is headed somewhere less savory. As for Hicks, perhaps banks should reconsider issuing a credit card to someone who goes by the name "God God."

This isn't the first time the combination of a college athlete and a credit card has gotten authorities' attention. The St. Petersburg Times reported in May that former Florida Gators' safety Jamar Hornsby was arrested for allegedly making an estimated 70 charges totaling $3,000 using the gas credit card of a girl who previously died in a motorcycle accident with one of Hornsby's teammates. His lawyer's simple explanation? Hornsby had permission to use the deceased woman's credit card, so there was no theft involved.      

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