Bad Investment

New Orleans, LA - At least 16 people associated with the New Orleans Saints, including coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and Hall of Famer Archie Manning

are among investors who lost $1.9 million.

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Kevin Houser, cut Monday as the team's long snapper after eight years, said Thursday he and at least 26 others bought what they thought were state film industry tax credits from Louisiana Film Studios in suburban New Orleans. A state official, however, said the studio that offered the credits never applied for them.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of one of the proposals Thursday from a person whose client was approached with the offer. The person requested anonymity because the client had not given approval to discuss it. The proposal, titled Investment/Tax Credit Purchase Agreement, said the studio would repay the investors in the form of ``state infrastructure tax credits'' no later than March 31.
f investors accompanied the proposal - including their investment totals - and identified 27 people. The document put the total amount of investments at just under $1.9 million.
Among them are defensive lineman Charles Grant, with a $425,000 investment; Brees, $100,000; Payton, $144,000; former punter Mitch Berger, $250,000; and tight end Jeremy Shockey, $80,000.
Manning, Payton and Tom Condon, the agent for Brees, did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said the team would have no comment.
The news was first reported by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.
Houser, who said he invested $125,000, said investors were told if the credits were not delivered by March 31, ``the money would be returned'' to them. Houser said the money hasn't been returned by studio chief executive Wayne Read and demands for repayment have gone unanswered.
Read could not be reached for comment Thursday. His office said he was out of town. The studio chief told The Times-Picayune, in a story published Thursday, that the company was not selling tax credits but was taking money with a pledge to provide a return in the form of tax credits.
But the head of the state office that promotes film industry development in Louisiana and administers the program told the AP the studio didn't have the credits to offer in the first place - because it never applied for them.
ver submitted the required documents to receive tax credits,'' said Sherri McConnell, director of the Office of Entertainment Industry Development.
Read told the newspaper he is talking to other potential investors, and money raised from them would be used to return at least the original investments associated with the tax credits deal.
Houser said he ``absolutely'' felt he had been defrauded. But his involvement with Read and the film studio went beyond the investments, court documents show.
According to a lawsuit filed in state court in suburban Jefferson Parish, where both the studio and the Saints are based, 47 Construction Co., owned by Houser's wife, Kristen, and a partner, Toni Wendel, claims Read has not paid the company $681,418 for renovation work done on the studio.
Houser said the company's operations were managed by his wife and her partner. ``I was considered to be the intern there,'' he said.
Asked if he felt Read had used him as a promoter of the credits, Houser said: ``We have done tax credits, both myself and my wife and other people around the state of Louisiana.''
Despite involving other Saints in the deal, Houser said no one from the team had confronted him about the potential losses.
``Everyone I spoke with that was involved was very supportive and very disappointed, but understood that my wife and myself were in the same position,'' he said.
ut, Payton said ``they wanted to upgrade the position,'' Houser said.
Houser said law enforcement officials had contacted him about the investments, but he refused to identify the agency. McConnell said her office had not been contacted by investigators. Both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans refused to confirm or deny any investigation Thursday.
Houser's attorney, Rob Couhig, said he and Houser were discussing legal options.
``He thought there was no question that there were tax credits out there, and they only had to go through certain formalities,'' Couhig said.
The plan for Louisiana Film Studios was to provide more than 500,000 square feet of space for movie sets, soundstages and other film production work, studio president Daniel Forman said during a March interview. Forman said plans called for six soundstages and work space for wardrobe, among other functions.
A person who answered the telephone at the studio Thursday said Forman was no longer employed by the company. Attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

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Posted: 7/4/09 8:45PM ET

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