The owner of a tattoo parlor whose relationship with several Ohio State football players has led to an in-depth NCAA investigation of the program, was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday.
Edward Rife, owner of Fine Link Ink Tattoos and Body Piercings, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and one count of money laundering.
As part of his plea agreement in June, Rife had to pay $50,000, which is equal to the amount he made drug-trafficking.
Court documents from June said Rife occasionally used his tattoo parlor to launder his narcotics proceeds. He also purchased cars and real estate in the names of others to hide his participation in the trade of drugs.
Judge Gregory Frost from the U.S District Court gave the ruling on Wednesday to Rife. Frost made it clear he was not interested in the OSU involvement of the matter, but that this sentence was purely about the drugs.
“I don’t care about trinkets, I don’t care about Ohio State, I don’t care about the players,” Frost said Wednesday. “I care about the drugs.”
Rife began distributing marijuana as early as 2008, and in 2009, was receiving up to 500 pounds of marijuana at a time, according to court documents.
Investigators said Rife distributed between 400 kilograms (881 pounds) and 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of marijuana between 2008 and April 1, 2010, when law enforcement executed a federal search warrant on Rife’s Westerville residence.
At that time, investigators found several pieces of OSU memorabilia including trophies, championship rings and gold pants — given to Buckeye football players when they defeat Michigan.
The university and NCAA disciplined former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, senior running back Daniel Herron, senior wide receiver DeVier Posey, senior defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and senior offensive lineman Mike Adams for their involvement with Rife. The five received discounted or free tattoos and other impermissible benefits in exchange for memorabilia.
The five, now notoriously referred to at the “Tat-5,” received a five-game suspension for the 2011 season. Pryor departed the university on June 7 to pursue an NFL career.
Sophomore linebacker Jordan Whiting also received a one-game suspension.
However, before news broke at the university of the NCAA violations, Rife met with a Columbus-area lawyer named Christopher Cicero in April 2010. Cicero and Rife met to discuss his legal status, but ultimately, Rife never hired Cicero.
Cicero then contacted former head coach Jim Tressel to inform him of the pieces of memorabilia investigators found in his home. He warned Tressel about the player’s involvement with Rife, and told Tressel about the drug trafficking issues.
Tressel chose to keep this information to himself until a probe of email records in March 2011 exposed the email conversation between Cicero and Tressel.
Tressel knowingly played the five ineligible players for the entire 2010 season, which was later vacated. Tressel left the university May 30.
Rife will be able to keep his OSU memorabilia, as federal investigators were unable to determine if it was purchased with money obtained from the sale of drugs.
Attorneys on both sides of the case said no OSU football players were involved in the trade of drugs.
After an August meeting with the NCAA, the university awaits a response for a ruling on the status of the football program.