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Prankster who hoaxed top NFL, NBA coaches charged with eavesdropping

A 32-year-old Los Angeles man has been arrested for allegedly recording phone calls with high-profile sports figures without their consent and hoaxing them to believe other teams were interested in hiring them.

Prosecutors filed a charge of felony eavesdropping against a Los Angeles man who authorities say pranked big-name coaches from the NBA, NFL and college football into believing he was offering them jobs with pro or college teams.

Kenneth Edward Tarr, 32, was arrested last week by LAPD detectives on suspicion of illegally recording phone calls with sports figures without their permission. California law prohibits recording people without their consent and if convicted, Tarr faces a maximum of 3 years in county jail.

Tarr allegedly called multiple high-profile coaches and told them he was representing professional and college teams that were looking for new head coaches. He then allegedly recorded and publicized the resulting conversations.

Read the original NBC News report on Ken Tarr.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, at least a dozen coaches from the NFL, NBA and college football teams were alleged victims of the illegal eavesdropping, including University of Hawaii Coach Norm Chow, Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

In addition, Tarr allegedly telephoned former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy to offer him the head coaching job at the University of Southern California, sources said. Although the school ultimately offered the position to Steve Sarkisian, the prank led to confusion and denials from both USC and Dungy.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt looks on prior to the start of the game against the New York Giants on Dec. 8, in San Diego, Calif.

In October, after emailing a writer for the sports website Deadspin an email with the subject line “Hi I hoaxed Tony Dungy, “ someone called Kenny Tarr boasted to the writer that he’d made dozens of calls to sports figures.

He told the website of phone contacts he said he’d had with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, as well as college football coaches Mike Riley, Sonny @!$%#s, David Shaw, and Dabo Swinney.

"I'm amazed that they're returning any of these calls," he said. He also sent the writer a video recording of a phone call with basketball coach Mark Jackson in which he claimed to be a liaison working for the Los Angeles Lakers in their search for a new head coach.

"I'm like the world's most safe criminal," Tarr told Deadspin.

Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Former Head Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts stands on the field in January 2009 in San Diego, Calif.

In November, Tarr told KNBC sports anchor Fred Roggin that he considered himself to be on the “new frontier of broadcast journalism and sports media.”

Law enforcement sources could not immediately say just how many franchises and schools coaching staffs were impacted.

During the two-month investigation, LAPD Lt. Mark Reina said the force had worked closely with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and investigators from the NFL.

“Our investigation is ongoing and includes coaches from across professional sports,” Reina said at the time of arrest. “We will be analyzing evidence taken during the service of our search warrant to determine if there are additional victims we are not aware of.”

Tarr, who was released last week after posting $20,000 bail, could not immediately be reached for comment. He is due in court in early January.

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