ATHENS — Late Monday night, four Georgia football players — Tray Matthews, John Taylor, James DeLoach and Uriah LeMay — walked out of a jail cell at the Athens-Clarke County detention center.
The next afternoon, the four were on the field for the start of Georgia’s spring practice.
It wasn’t quite the start the program envisioned. When head coach Mark Richt walked into a post-practice news conference, he was greeted by a room full of TV cameras and media members.
“Obviously we had some guys do some things that were foolish, and there’ll be consequences for that,” Richt said.
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Each of the players was arrested Monday night on multiple charges of theft by deception.
Matthews, Taylor and DeLoach are charged with what amounts to double-dipping. Each allegedly took normal stipend checks from Georgia and deposited them via a mobile application and then also cashed them somewhere else, according to Georgia chief of police Jimmy Williamson. LeMay is charged with taking his roommate’s deposited stipend check and cashing it.
The Georgia athletics department detected the checks clearing twice and contacted the police, Williamson said.
Richt did not announce discipline for any player and did not close the door on dismissal, if he finds it warranted.
“I would just say there’s always a process that I go through before I make a decision,” Richt said. “Sometimes it happens rapidly, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not going to say anything other than if there’s something I need to report to everybody, I will.”
The four players were released on bond Monday night, with bond at $1,500 per charge. Misdemeanor theft means the charge is for stealing something less than $500 per charge.
Matthews was charged with three counts. LeMay was charged with four counts. Taylor and DeLoach were charged with two counts.
“Matthews, DeLoach and Taylor would basically take that check and deposit it through a mobile banking app. And then within a short period of time would go to a local convenience store and cash the checks. So they basically would cash the check twice,” Williamson said.
LeMay’s roommate posted his check via mobile banking, then disposed of the check, per Williamson. LeMay is charged with then taking the check and cashing it at a local convenience store.
Georgia’s finance departments discovered the situation, noticing the checks were posting twice. Williamson spoke to two associate athletics directors about the matter. Besides having to report the matter because it’s fraud, Georgia was concerned with running into an NCAA compliance issue because players were receiving extra benefits.
“They have to account for these types of things for audits. And they also have to be able to show that they aren’t outside compliance, that this was done through a fraudulent means,” Williamson said.
All four players were interviewed by police during the investigation.
“It didn’t take long to look into it. A few days,” Williamson said.
The players turned themselves in Monday night. Williamson said the charges and arrests could have been made last week, but they allowed the players to turn themselves in after spring break.
Matthews, who started six games as a freshman last year, is set to compete for the starting spot at free safety.
DeLoach, who will be a junior this fall, has rarely played and moved to defensive end. Taylor, who will be a redshirt sophomore, had nine tackles and a sack last season. LeMay redshirted as a freshman last season.