Courts & Crime

Basketball player, Shaq, denies taking Ponzi suspect's diamond-studded cuffs

Shaquille O'Neal on Sunday confirmed knowing accused Ponzi swindler Nevin Shapiro, but denied receiving a pair of diamond-studded handcuffs from him.

``He was an associate,'' O'Neal told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, beat the Chicago Bulls Sunday. ``A lot of guys in Miami hang out. I'm the kind of guy, I'm nice to everybody.''

O'Neal confirmed having his picture taken bench-pressing Shapiro after The Miami Herald reported Sunday morning that two people had seen the photo. The Herald also reported Shapiro, now jailed on federal charges, had bragged about giving the diamond cuffs to O'Neal, who used to volunteer for the Miami Beach Police Department.

Shapiro pursued a high profile in South Florida's sports circles, donating money to the University of Miami's football program and courting top athletes. Heat guard Dwyane Wade confirmed through a spokeswoman that he had been on Shapiro's yacht and briefly rented a house from a woman Shapiro dated.

Federal prosecutors cited the jeweled cuffs as an example of Shapiro's lavish lifestyle in Miami Beach while bilking investors out of roughly $80 million by selling shares in a fictitious food wholesale business. In a press release, prosecutors said Shapiro gave the cuffs to a ``prominent professional athlete.''

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