CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – On Thursday, the Coastal Carolina University Department of Public Safety released the report of the criminal investigation regarding allegations about CCU cheerleader misconduct.
A statement from CCU Vice President of University Communication and Marketing William Plate, Jr., confirmed the entire squad had been “suspended indefinitely pending a conduct investigation” on March 30.
The report released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request includes text messages from members of the cheerleading team and also a copy of the letter mailed to university officials that started the investigation that led to the suspension of the squad.
According to the document, investigators met with university officials on March 13 after five anonymous letters were mailed to CCU alleging members of the cheerleading team were “operating an escort service” and “working in strip clubs, prostituting themselves” and “providing alcohol at parties and forcing younger, underage, cheerleaders to drink.” The letter also alleged the team members were paying others to do their schoolwork for them and other cheerleaders used illegal drugs.
The letter was signed “a concerned parent” and the person threatened to go public with the accusations in an attempt to humiliate and discredit CCU.
The investigative report includes a copy of one letter sent to CCU President David A. Decenzo.
The letter included the names of individual team members accused of each issue, but the document was redacted by investigators to hide the identities of the cheerleaders.
The report says the investigation by the CCU Department of Public Safety revealed some of the allegations mentioned in the letter were true. The document prepared by investigator Michelyn Pylilo confirms members of the team were and are currently involved in an escort service called SeekingArrangements.com.
Investigators say the escorts were paid between $100 and $1,500 per date and also received payment in the form of clothes, shoes and designer handbags. Pylilo confirmed the information through recorded interviews with members of the team and text messages obtained via search warrants. When asked about the escort service, one girl admitted she had gone on dates for money but told officials that sexual favors were not performed.
The investigation also found the cheerleaders were warned by a team member on March 28 about the investigation and told to delete their Seeking Arrangement app on their phones and also encouraged those who were working at a strip club to quit their jobs until the national cheer competition was over.
On March 28, six current cheerleaders were interviewed.
The first team member said she knew about the escort service, had the app on her phone but did not go on dates for money. The second admitted to participating in the escort service and going on a dinner date for $100.
Another cheerleader said she went on a shopping date through the escort service with another girl where they received shoes, clothes, Michael Kors purses and another date where both girls were paid $1,500 each. She also says the incidents occurred in North Carolina and both times they spent the night, but there was nothing sexual.
A fourth cheerleader knew and participated in the service and works at Thee Doll House as a shot girl. She had gone a date for $100 through the service, and was offered $800 to escort a man to New York Prime.
Another team member interviewed on March 28 told investigators she had also been paid $1,500 to go on a date in North Carolina.
According to investigator Michelyn Pylilo, 11 of the team members said they knew about the escort service in an interview and seven told officials they did not know about the escorting.
Interviews are still being conducted, officials said.
The report released Thursday did not acknowledge the other accusations mentioned in the letter to university officials.
Thursday evening, Amy Lawrence with the Lovely Law Firm in Myrtle Beach released a statement on behalf of five of the cheerleaders she represents. That statement, in part is as follows:
I am disgusted and angered that Coastal Carolina University has released an incomplete investigation to the media that paints the women of the Cheerleading Team as prostitutes with the broadest of strokes. This goes to the heart of what is wrong with the University and its inadequate treatment of women, not only in sports but on campus.
I met with Investigator Pylilo today with several of my clients to give full statements about any knowledge surrounding the anonymous letter sent to CCU. Investigator Pylilo confirmed that the “prostitution” allegations involved five women, one of which was not a student nor a cheerleader, that was participating in a dating website where men paid them for just that, dating. She confirmed that there was no evidence of any sexual conduct for payment. It’s my understanding that the investigation has encompassed interviews and searches subsequent to warrants. Yet, no one has been charged, no arrests have been made and a lot of really wonderful, kind, smart women have been smeared in the public eye yet again, at the hand of the University they love and their parents entrusted their wellbeing.”