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Payton, Saints deny ex-employee's claim of pain-pill theft cover-up

The New Orleans Saints' former security director has accused the team of trying to cover up the theft of prescription pain pills from its drug locker, less than three months after its thrilling Super Bowl XLIV victory.

One of those allegedly involved was Saints coach Sean Payton, two people familiar with the case told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the suit. Payton and the Saints denied the allegations, and the coach wasn't named in court papers.

The lawsuit, filed Friday by former FBI agent Geoffrey Santini, alleges that one senior staff member stole Vicodin pills while another was given an amount large enough to constitute abuse. Times-Picayune sources confirmed a report that the staff members are Payton and Saints linebacker coach Joe Vitt. According to the sources, Vitt allegedly stole the pills and Payton reportedly took them despite not having a medical condition.

No allegations were made against any Saints players, AP's sources said.


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Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said the allegations are false and the team will aggressively defend itself in court. And Payton, who was at his vacation home in Watercolor, Fla., on Saturday, denied any wrongdoing.

"I have reviewed Geoff Santini's lawsuit and the unwarranted publicity it has received," Payton said in a statement released by the team. "I have never abused or stolen Vicodin or any other medication and I fully support the Saints' position in this matter."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that while the league hadn't read the complaint, "we are aware of the lawsuit and that the Saints reject the claims as false."

The theft of Vicodin, a narcotic used to relieve moderate to severe pain, is a state and federal offense. Any attempt to cover up such a theft also could constitute a state or federal crime. Failure to report a felony also is a federal crime.

Santini's attorney, Donald Hyatt II, said he wasn't aware if any criminal charges had been filed. He said if there was a sealed indictment, it wouldn't have been made public.

Santini reported the possible violations to federal authorities on June 23, 2009. He resigned from the Saints on Aug. 16, 2009, and first alerted the team of his intent to sue on Sept. 14, Hyatt said.

Santini spent 31 years with the FBI. His lawsuit says he resigned from the Saints because of a disagreement over the team's handling of the Vicodin episode.

Santini is seeking damages and back pay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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