A federal grand jury in Louisville has returned an indictment against Karen Sypher, accusing her of attempting to extort University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and lying to investigators about the case.
Sypher is the estranged wife of U of L basketball equipment manager Tim Sypher. Her arraignment in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
She allegedly threatened to go public with personal information about Pitino unless he agreed to provide her with money, cars and college tuition for her children. Specifics about the information she allegedly had regarding Pitino has not been publicly disclosed.
Here is a summary of the indictment released Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville:
LOUISVILLE WOMAN CHARGED WITH EXTORTION AND MAKING FALSE STATEMENT TO THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
LOUISVILLE, KY – Acting United States Attorney Candace Hill, and Timothy D. Cox, Special Agent in Charge, Louisville Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, jointly announce that an indictment was returned today by a Federal Grand Jury sitting in the Louisville Division of the Western District of Kentucky against Karen Sypher, of Louisville, Kentucky. The Indictment charges that Sypher violated Title 18, United States Code Section 875(d), by willfully causing another person to transmit in interstate commerce, with the intent to extort money, a threat to injure the reputation of University of Louisville Basketball Coach Rick Pitino; and charges that she violated Title 18, United States Code Section 1001, by knowingly and willfully making materially false statements to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the course of their investigation into the extortion.
This Indictment follows a criminal Complaint previously filed on April 24, 2009. According to the Affidavit of Special Agent Steven J. Wight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that was filed in support of the Complaint, Sypher was responsible for telephone messages left on Pitino’s cell phone by an unidentified male in February, 2009. The telephone messages concerned unsubstantiated allegations of a personal nature, and threatened disclosure to the media. Sypher falsely denied to FBI agents that she knew who made the calls, but the caller was eventually identified and stated to agents that Sypher had prompted him to make the February calls, told him details to recite, and provided Mr. Pitino’s cell phone number. Those calls resulted in a series of events in which Sypher demanded money from Pitino.
Acting United States Attorney Candace G. Hill praised the efforts of the FBI for its diligence and professionalism in investigating these matters. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are mindful of their responsibilities to protect victims, no matter who they are, from the criminal conduct of others.
The extortion charge and lying to a federal agent charge carry combined potential penalties of imprisonment up to 7 years, a fine of up to $500,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 6 years. Assistant United States Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr. is prosecuting the case.
The indictment of a person by a Grand Jury is an accusation only and that person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.