Nevin Shapiro: Who Is This Ponzi Dirtbag Exploding Canes Football?
The view from Shapiro's pool.
photo by Tim Elfrink
So Yahoo! Sports dropped an ass-seeking clusterbomb all over the University of Miami last night with a mammoth exposé about Nevin Shapiro's (alleged) hooker-buying, yacht-lending, abortion-funding services for Hurricanes athletes. The story doesn't spend much space on a basic question, though: Who in hell is this gelled-hair clown burying Miami's premier college franchise from prison?
For one thing, Shapiro is a retiree-robbing, sucker-punching maniac who might well have learned the fraud business from his stepdad. Those are just a few of the juicy tidbits we uncovered last year while reporting on Shapiro's Ponzi scheme.
Here's your quick guide to the guy who's making the New York Daily News question whether Miami should just blow up its football program for good.
He's a Lifelong Canes Fan: Or make that was a lifelong Canes fan. Shapiro was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Miami Beach, graduating from Beach High in the same class as cheeseball director extraordinaire Brett Ratner.
He was such a maniacal Canes fan that he once popped up in a random Miami Herald football story playing the part of "borderline insane fan." Here's how a Herald beat reporter described him during a key drive: "[Like] a caged animal about to be cornered... [or] a man in dire need of sleep. He looked crazed."
When cash began flowing in from his Ponzi scheme, one of Shapiro's biggest buys was a $150,000 donation to UM, which put his name on a student lounge.
He Grew Up in a Criminal Household: Nevin Shapiro's stepfather, a Canadian businessman named Richard Adam, bought the family a ritzy house in Lighthouse Point and a yacht. It didn't last.
It turned out Adam's cash came from an advanced-fee fraud scheme to the tune of $6 million. Adam spent six years in Canadian jail fighting extradition before pleading guilty.
He Stole From Retirees (and Barry Alvarez): When Shapiro constructed his own teetering Ponzi empire, he built it on the backs of Florida retirees. Starting in 2003, Shapiro recruited heavily in Naples and up and down the moneyed retirement communities on the Gulf Coast and around Orlando.
Some investors lost everything and had to go back to work. "A lot of people here lost their shirts," one Naples retiree told us.
The biggest name Shapiro conned: Barry Alvarez, the University of Wisconsin athletic director, lost $600,000.
Read more in our December 2010 feature, "Nevin Shapiro: Miami's Caligula."
He Blew His Money on Ridiculous Shit: When you build an $880 million Ponzi, you've got cash to toss around. In addition to all the money Shapiro claims he spread around UM's athletic programs, here's a shortlist of his buys: a $5.4 million mansion (with pool tables and vintage pinball machines), $400,000 on pre-LeBron Miami Heat floor seats, $160,000 on one girlfriend's credit cards, and quite possibly diamond-encrusted handcuffs for Shaq. (Shaq denies this.)
He's a Seriously Vindictive Asshole: That much should be obvious, considering he's destroying the program he has loved since he was a kid. But Shapiro has always shown an edge for crazed retaliation.
On his 26th birthday, for example, he sucker-punched the owner of a South Beach club so hard that he tore open the guy's tear ducts and nearly blinded him. Why? Because the man had the temerity to insist that Shapiro and his friends use the front door and pay a cover charge instead of sneaking through a back alley.
After getting popped for running the Ponzi scheme, Shapiro began calling and threatening anyone he could get on the phone from prison in New Jersey. Here's a charming message that one associate (who asked not to be named) allowed us to listen to:
[Shapiro's voice, husky and calm, sounds just after the beep of a voicemail message]: "Dude, it's Nevin. I told you'd I'd call you at 9:30, and you didn't answer. I called you four times. It's really a lack of courtesy and respect you give me... I think you should answer a call from me. It's the least you could do. Especially from the position I'm sitting in."
Three more calls come in the next three days. By the last one, Shapiro is unhinged:
"Listen up, you fucking white-bread fucking trash... piece of shit. I'm telling you, you fucking better fucking take a call from me, bro. If not, you're going to have to get a criminal attorney, I'm telling you... little cunt. OK, bye."
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