Thomas, Duke clear of wrongdoing in jewelry case
Posted April 30, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas, who bought nearly $100,000 in jewelry during the 2009-10 season while a member of the Blue Devils, did not commit any NCAA violations, according to a statement from the school Tuesday.
“The NCAA has found no evidence of a rules violation in this situation based on the information available, and both the NCAA and Duke consider the matter closed,” the university said.
In an email, the NCAA sconfirmed the statement from the university but would not confirm that Thomas or the jeweler were interviewed during the investigation process. The NCAA does not have legal subpoena power.
A lawsuit filed in January 2012 in Austin, Texas, and made public in September, revealed that Thomas purchased $97,800 worth of jewelry from Rafaello & Co. in December 2009. It alleged that Thomas made a $30,000 down payment and agreed to pay the remaining balance in 15 days. Thomas defaulted on that payment and was sued for the remaining balance.
Items purchased included a black diamond necklace, a diamond-encrusted watch, a pair of diamond stud earrings, a diamond cross and a black diamond pendant in the shape of the head of Jesus.
Records show the purchase date of the jewelry from the Manhattan-based company was Dec. 21, which coincides with the Blue Devils' trip to New York where Duke played Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19.
The lawsuit was filed in Texas because Thomas was playing in the NBA Developmental League with the Austin Toros at the time.
A settlement between Thomas and the jewelry company was reached out of court, although the terms were not made public.
Thomas' agent, John Spencer, said Tuesday he was unfamiliar with the details surrounding the NCAA's decision and that Thomas' lawyer, Joe Crews, had been dealing with the specifics of the case. Telephone messages to Crews were not immediately returned.
When learning of the lawsuit, Duke University notified the NCAA of possible violations related to impermissible benefits. At Duke’s preseason media day in October, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “Before anything was made public, they started working together to go through a process of seeing what happened. As a result of that, we want to honor the integrity of that process.”
Rafaello & Co. lists clients including Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne, Beyonce, Brandon Phillips, Willis McGahee and Chad Ochocinco.
Duke went 35-5 and defeated Butler to win the national championship in the 2009-10 season. Thomas played in all 40 games, starting 39, that season averaging 4.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Thomas was drafted by the Austin Toros of the NBA-D League in 2010. He's been on the New Orleans Hornets since 2011.