Authorities have arrested a Los Angeles man who they say pranked big-name coaches from the NBA, NFL and college football into believing he was offering them jobs with pro or college teams.
Kenneth Edward Tarr, 32, was booked Monday morning on suspicion of felony eavesdropping by LAPD Hollywood Division detectives for recording phone calls with sports figures without their permission, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s booking records and LAPD officials. Under California law, it is illegal to record someone without their consent.
At least a dozen coaches from the NFL, NBA and college football teams were victims of the illegal eavesdropping, including University of Hawaii Coach Norm Chow, Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, sources familiar with the investigation said.
In one of the most high-profile stunts that’s part of the LAPD investigation, Tarr allegedly telephoned former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy to offer him the head coaching job at the University of Southern California, sources said. Although the school ultimately offered the position to Steve Sarkisian, the prank led to confusion and denials from both USC and Dungy.
In October, after emailing a writer for the sports website “Deadspin” an email with the subject line “Hi I hoaxed Tony Dungy, “ someone called Kenny Tarr boasted to the writer that he’d made dozens of calls to sports figures.
He told the website of phone contacts he said he’d had with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, as well as college football coaches Mike Riley, Sonny Dykes, David Shaw, and Dabo Swinney.
"I'm amazed that they're returning any of these calls," he said. He also sent the writer a video recording of a phone call with basketball coach Mark Jackson in which he claimed to be a liaison working for the Los Angeles Lakers in their search for a new head coach.
Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
Former Head Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts stands on the field in January 2009 in San Diego, Calif. Authorities say Dungy was among the sports figures allegedly pranked by Ken Tarr.
"I'm like the world's most safe criminal," he told Deadspin.
In November, Tarr told KNBC sports anchor Fred Roggin that he considered himself to be on the “new frontier of broadcast journalism and sports media.”
Law enforcement sources could not immediately say just how many franchises and schools coaching staffs were impacted.
During the two-month investigation, LAPD Lt. Mark Reina said the force had worked closely with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and investigators from the NFL.
“Our investigation is ongoing and includes coaches from across professional sports,” Reina said. “We will be analyzing evidence taken during the service of our search warrant to determine if there are additional victims we are not aware of.”
Tarr, who is being held at the LAPD’s Hollywood Division jail in lieu of $20,000 bail, could not immediately be reached for comment. A case will be presented to prosecutors who could file charges as soon as Wednesday.
About a year ago, LAPD Hollywood Division Detectives arrested a then-12-year-old boy in connection with so-called “swatting” calls that manipulated the 911 system to allege violent crimes in progress at the homes of celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher.
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First published December 9 2013, 5:41 PM