Sypher charged with extortion, lying to feds - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Sypher charged with extortion, lying to feds

Karen Sypher, the estranged wife of the equipment manager for the UofL Men's basketball team, has been charged with extortion and making false statements to a federal agent.

FBI agents say she "aided and abetted others with trying to extort money from Rick Pitino and injure his reputation."

But Sypher and her family tell a different story.

Fox 41 News has the list of demands written out by Karen Sypher was delivered to UofL Basketball Coach Rick Pitino last month.

The demands include college tuition for her children, two cars, a house paid off, and cash -- and later a $10 million request through her former attorney. The total is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

Sypher claims it was Pitino who initiated the offer, not her.

"He said, Karen, what do you want? What can I do to make your life better," said Sypher during a recent exclusive interview with Fox 41 News.

The basis for the list and the alleged extortion attempt stems from an encounter Sypher had with Pitino in 2003.

Pitino told the FBI he met with Sypher and her now-estranged husband Tim last month and "asked her what she wanted."

Sources tells us that meeting took place at the Yum Center on UofL's campus.

The affidavit says an unknown male caller began leaving messages on Pitino's cell phone in February.

Sypher denied knowing the caller, but after failing a polygraph test, admitted to federal agents that she provided him with Pitino's cell phone number.

The caller later told FBI agents Sypher asked him to help her "obtain money from Pitino."

On Friday, Karen Sypher appeared in U.S. District Court flanked by her son and attorney Thomas Clay.

"They're very serious charges and we intend to defend against them vigorously," said Thomas Clay, Sypher's attorney.

Sypher has been charged with extortion and making a false statement to a federal agent.

A reporter asked Clay if past events could be used in Sypher's defense:

"That's debatable. And certainly the United States does feel that anything that happened before is relevant but I certainly don't share that opinion. I do not believe that the FBI has been influenced in the manner of which this investigation was conducted by the identity of Coach Pitino or anybody else," said Clay.

Karen Sypher is due back in court on May 13. She has been told and agreed not to make any more statements.

Pitino issued a statement through his attorney saying in part, "Today, the United States brought criminal charges against the perpetrator of this scheme. While Coach Pitino takes no comfort in this prosecution and remains astonished by these events, it marks a turning point that allows him to focus with a clear mind once again on his family and his team."

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