Federal authorities are looking into allegations made in a civil lawsuit accusing the New Orleans Saints of trying to cover up a senior staff member's theft of prescription Vicodin pills from the team's training headquarters.
"The DEA was referred this case, and there is a pending investigation," said Special Agent Roberto Bryan Jr., a New Orleans-based spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The civil suit was filed Friday by former Saints security director Geoffrey Santini, a retired FBI agent who gave federal authorities evidence he collected before resigning from the team last August.
The accusations also could constitute state offenses, but local authorities say they have yet to begin a probe of their own.
Jefferson Parish sheriff's spokesman Col. John Fortunato said his department didn't become aware of the allegations until after the civil lawsuit was filed.
"It hasn't been turned into a criminal investigation as of yet," Fortunato said.
The Saints have said the allegations are false and represent an attempt by Santini, who resigned last August, to shake down the team. Saints spokesman Greg Bensel has said the team will aggressively defend itself in court.
Coach Sean Payton so far is the only member of the franchise other than Bensel to comment on the case.
Payton issued a statement through the team, asserting that he has never abused or stolen Vicodin, a narcotic used to relieve moderate to severe pain.
Payton spoke out Saturday after people familiar with the lawsuit said the coach was the unidentified person in the complaint who allegedly was permitted to take a large enough amount of Vicodin from the team's drug locker to constitute abuse.
Nothing in the complaint indicated that Payton, who wasn't named in the lawsuit, had done anything illegal. However, the complaint said another "senior staff member" used a trainer's key to steal Vicodin from the drug locker.
The people who spoke to The Associated Press about the case -- on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations -- said that other staff member was linebackers coach Joe Vitt.
The lawsuit describes video surveillance catching Vitt taking keys from a trainer's office and using them to get into the team's drug locker to take Vicodin.
Vitt didn't respond to a message sent to his work e-mail seeking comment. The Saints and their defense lawyers also didn't respond to requests for help in contacting Vitt to see if he had anything to say on the matter.
In his lawsuit, Santini claims he was ordered to keep quiet about the Vicodin matter. He also claims two trainers were told by a top team executive to forge entries in official logs so the amount of Vicodin stolen would be reflected as an amount that had been properly distributed.
Santini said being ordered to either undertake or ignore activity he believed might be criminal was what led him to resign, and he's seeking damages and back pay.
Saints owner Tom Benson traveled to New York on Sunday in advance of regularly scheduled NFL finance committee meetings, and NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported that the lawsuit likely will be discussed at some point.
League spokesman Greg Aiello said Sunday that the NFL has a copy of Santini's complaint and is following developments for now.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.