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USC roiled by allegations of athlete payoffs [Video discussion]

September 5, 2012 |  1:30 pm

USC said it is investigating allegations that a former county appraiser provided a car and a plane ticket to former USC football star Joe McKnight.

The Times reported Saturday that a key figure in the ongoing corruption investigation at the Los Angeles County assessor's office said he gave cash and perks worth thousands of dollars to McKnight and former basketball player Davon Jefferson.

At 2 p.m. Times Staff Writer Jack Dolan will discuss the case. You can submit questions on Twitter using the hashtag #asklatimes.

The new allegations are contained among hundreds of Scott Schenter's county work emails that suggest the former appraiser provided McKnight with a car and an airline ticket, and Jefferson with about $3,700 in cash. The Times obtained the emails from the assessor's office under the California Public Records Act.

Among Schenter's emails is a 2009 message from an agent for Mercury Insurance saying the company believed a Chevrolet Monte Carlo listed on Schenter's policy was in McKnight's possession.

A May 2008 email from Delta Air Lines to Schenter includes a receipt for his purchase of a $625 flight from Los Angeles to New Orleans. The listed passenger: "Joe McKnight." The football player is from Louisiana.

Schenter, in a brief interview at a recent court hearing, told The Times that he gave money to Jefferson and the Monte Carlo to McKnight, who he said then wrecked the vehicle. Schenter did not return messages seeking additional information, including whether he gave McKnight the airline ticket or additional money.

It's unclear why Schenter would help the two athletes, or where the $80,000-per-year property appraiser would have obtained the money. But in the emails, Schenter says he was trying to start several private business ventures and hoped Jefferson and McKnight would help him market them. His connection, if any, to USC is also unclear. He describes himself in the emails as a fan of the University of Washington, a Pac 12 rival to USC.

An agent for McKnight, who now plays for the New York Jets, did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls. A Jets spokesman said he would not pass the newspaper's questions along to McKnight.

Jefferson, who has been playing basketball overseas, could not be reached. His agent did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Photos: Running back Joe McKnight, left, and basketball player Davon Jefferson.