COLUMBUS (Reuters) - A tattoo parlor owner whose arrest on marijuana trafficking charges helped lead to the downfall of a top U.S. college football coach pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a federal court in Columbus, attorneys said.
During a search of the suburban Columbus home of the defendant, Edward Rife, local and federal agents discovered Ohio State University football memorabilia. While that memorabilia did not involve the drug charges, it did lead to an NCAA investigation.
Five players on OSU Coach Jim Tressel's 2010 team traded memorabilia, including championship rings and uniforms, for cash in violation of strict rules governing college sports.
Tressel, who was informed of the violations months before the case became publicly known and did not tell university officials, was given a five-game suspension, to match the punishment of the players. He quit last month.
Tuesday, Rife pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute more than 200 pounds of marijuana, as part of a plea bargain.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Kelley said there was no evidence any Ohio State players were involved in the marijuana operation. Rife's attorney, Stephen Palmer, said the memorabilia was the only link between Rife and OSU.
(Reporting by Jim Leckrone; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)