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Bejeweled Cowboys WR Bryant sued for $850,000-plus
DALLAS (AP) - In the 18 months before Dez Bryant signed with the Dallas Cowboys, he apparently spent like a superstar.
He bought at least seven men's watches and two more for women. He paid $65,500 for a diamond cross made of white gold and $60,000 for a custom charm. He ordered a set of dog tags made of white gold and diamonds, and all sorts of other rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces in various shades of gold, nearly all crammed with diamonds.
And finally, according to a pair of Texas lawsuits, Bryant ponied up for tickets to Cowboys and Mavericks playoff games, and to see LeBron James play. He also acquired some cash, at least $35,000.
Bryant got it all through a line of credit set up by his adviser, the lawsuits say, all with the understanding that he'd settle up once he signed his first pro contract.
But eight months after striking a deal that included $8.5 million guaranteed from the Cowboys, Bryant is facing two claims from people who say they are tired of waiting to get paid. A man from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and a New York company, are seeking a total of $861,350, plus interest and attorneys fees.
Bryant's attorney, state Sen. Royce West, declined comment on the specifics in the lawsuits, calling them "sheer allegations."
"What we're seeing is Dez Bryant being singled out," West said. "There are lawsuits. They will be resolved."
Bryant is a dazzling receiver and punt returner, but his character and maturity have often been questioned. That's widely considered the reason he went from a likely top-10 pick in last year's draft to No. 24.
Since he joined the Cowboys, he's made plenty of off-the-field headlines. He spent $54,896 on a single meal, and then there was the Dolphins executive who got punished for asking in a pre-draft interview whether Bryant's mother was a prostitute.
Just last week, Bryant got into a ruckus at an upscale Dallas mall. A shouting match with an off-duty police officer, stemming from him and his friends wearing their pants too low, led to him being banned from the premises for a few days.
The latest revelation, about debt Bryant ran up before he was drafted, raises the question of how much more he's spent since then.
Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple said the team had no comment.
The bigger of the lawsuits involves Eleow Hunt, a jeweler and ticket broker from suburban Colleyville. He is seeking repayment for $588,500 in jewelry, $15,850 for tickets and $11,000 in loans.
Hunt said in the lawsuit that a buy-now, pay-later system was set up by David Wells, Bryant's adviser and a co-defendant in the case. Hunt said he's known Wells for more than 10 years, and that they used a similar arrangements the year before with Wells' cousin _ Michael Crabtree, the standout receiver at Texas Tech who was a first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers.
"Mr. Crabtree ended up doing exactly what he said he would do, so my client felt pretty comfortable," said Hunt's attorney, Beth Ann Blackwood.
Bryant and Wells signed 17 receipts from January 2009 to July 2010, the lawsuit said. The longest wait between purchases was 2 1/2 months.
The bills ranged from $15,500 to $71,500, although Bryant also rang up $94,000 on two receipts in a single day.
The haul included six men's watches and two women's watches, and a variety of men's and women's diamond earrings. There were bracelets, rings and necklaces, with themes ranging from skulls to religion (three diamond crosses, a diamond Jesus medallion and a rosary made from diamonds and palladium).
All that's been paid was $15,000 of the original loan amount, Hunt's lawsuit says.
Hunt originally filed suit in September. Hunt didn't try publicizing it because he continued calling Bryant in hopes of working something out.
"My client was basically being nice," Blackwood said. "He deals with a lot of professional athletes, and he's not in the habit of trying to raise a fuss or have a high profile. He genuinely liked Dez Bryant and thought he would come through. ... My client's finally decided Dez doesn't care, he's not going to keep his word. My client is pretty angry."
Hunt's suit was amended last week, before the mall incident. As for the timing, Blackwood said, "We didn't approach the firestorm. The firestorm approached us."
The other suit, filed Friday, was by a New York jeweler, A+A Diamonds, doing business as Rafaello and Co.
Bryant signed four invoices with them in the four months spanning January to May 2010. His tab was $267,000, and he's paid $21,000.
There was a single invoice for $144,000. His purchases included the $60,000 charm and another diamond charm for $15,000, a $40,000 diamond watch and diamond bracelets that cost $23,000 and $10,000.
The jeweler's attorney, Mike Bower, said "we are working with Mr. Bryant's counsel to work out a resolution."
Because some of the receipts date to Bryant's time at Oklahoma State, the NCAA could become involved _ again.
Bryant was suspended from much of the 2009 season, his last, because he lied to the NCAA about having had a meal with Deion Sanders. The meal itself was OK, but the cover-up wasn't.
Bryant allegedly bought $185,500 of jewelry from Hunt before he was suspended in October 2009.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said Tuesday that in any case involving eligibility of a player after he's left school the questions are whether school knew "or did they have the processes and compliance and monitoring that they should have known."
"This is news to us," said Kevin Fite, Oklahoma State's head of athletic compliance. "We'll review it, consult with the NCAA and take whatever actions are deemed to be appropriate."
Associated Press writers Jim Vertuno in Austin and Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed.
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