Nevin Shapiro Of “The U” Fame Reflects On Time In Prison And His Next Act
The University of Miami’s football program in the early 2000s was epic and reflects some of the greatest teams in collegiate football history. It was also marred by reports of players receiving perks such as cash, jewelry, sexual favors and parties that rivaled the Playboy Mansion, all in the heart of Miami’s party scene at South Beach. The man at the center of it all was Nevin Shapiro, who played a role in securing the talent from some of the toughest and most impoverished neighborhoods in South Florida. Shapiro looked for standout athlete to continue the dominant tradition of the University of Miami football program, affectionately known as “The U.”
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Shapiro ran Capitol Investments, a hugely successful business based on the premise of arbitrage in the grocery and health & beauty industry. Capitol purchased merchandise directly with the largest manufacturers in the world and received a steep discount by riding on the coattails of huge orders placed by much larger grocery chains like Publix and Krogers. Capitol then distributed throughout the Caribbean and other foreign outlets, becoming one of the largest distributors of wholesale goods. However, as lenders waited in line to throw money at Capitol to purchase even more inventory, the ability to utilize that money for the company became a challenge. Shapiro became creative with his approach and that creativity landed him in trouble. Capitol and Shapiro were soon the focus of a federal investigation.
Shapiro’s family was from Brooklyn, NY but they settled in Miami Beach when Shapiro was just a kid. Growing up, Shapiro was a natural athlete. At 5’6”, the Jewish kid from New York played flag football and basketball in the parks of Miami his entire childhood and adult life. Once in business for himself, Shapiro recognized instantly that athletics was a certain way for many kids born into the challenges of poverty to make it out of their situation through collegiate football. Shapiro became a booster to the University of Miami and, as his fortune grew, his direct influence over the program would eventually lead to an NCAA investigation.
Shapiro had a non-traditional means of recruiting athletes to “The U” but it certainly met the needs for many who came from some of the poorest parts of South Florida. He offered immediate gratification for the talent that he helped recruit, selling the dream of being at his dream program and keeping their pockets flush. To many athletes who went on to star at Miami, Shapiro was their fixer of many problems and their benefactor. Shapiro told me in an interview, ”Athletes are getting paid now but back then so was everyone, but it was under the table, except me. I put the money right on the table. I hope I will be looked back on as the pioneer of this movement to get kids paid. I warned the NCAA directly in writing back in 2012. This was going to get out of hand.”
His influence over the team grew and his focus on Capitol Investments waned. Shapiro spent a majority of his time recruiting for U Miami in an unofficial capacity as well as attending games and practices on a regular basis. Eventually, his impact went beyond boosting and recruiting, to actually putting players on the field. Shapiro recalled just one story regarding Devin Hester. Hester a U Miami standout and soon to be named to the NFL Hall of Fame, called him on his cell phone before 7:00AM on Sept.13,2004. Shapiro said that Hester was extremely upset and was prepared to quit playing football at U Miami because then-Head Coach Larry Coker was not giving the recent recruit any playing time. Shapiro drove to the schools workout facility where he confronted Coker saying that if Hester did not see significant playing time in the upcoming game against Louisiana Tech (Sept.18,2004) that he would “turn off the faucet ” on recruits in the Tri-County area of South Florida. Hester was later informed that he would be starting on special teams. Hester returned two punts for touchdowns that week and another star was born at “The U”.
Miami’s program would later suffer from the fallout of the extended NCAA investigation and has never recovered to become the national powerhouse it once was. Shapiro too would experience an even greater fall from grace. On April 21, 2010, Shapiro self-surrendered to authorities in Newark, NJ based on the filing of a criminal complaint which charged him with six counts of both money laundering and securities fraud in the amount of $930 million associated with transactions at Capitol Investments. In the end, Shapiro was sentenced to a staggering 20 years in prison.
Shapiro is still incarcerated and was placed on home confinement under the CARES Act due to health reasons. Still full of energy, he expects to resume a second chance at life and redemption on the other side of “The U” and Capitol. While in prison, Shapiro ran the basketball courts with gang members, questionable characters, and a host of former collegiate and professional athletes. In fact, sharing the back court with him at FCI Oakdale in Louisiana was college standout and professional NBA player Rumeal Robinson. ”I’m was a short Jewish guy with a lot of swag with a dirty handle and nasty jumper and I could dish the rock “, Shapiro said ” those survival skills and the fact that I was who I was to the guys from the inner cities were paramount in my transition to prison life and earning respect and surviving.”
Since being in home confinement, Shapiro has lectured multiple classes at Universities including Fairfield and Fordham, where he talks candidly on what led him to prison. “I have a great deal of remorse for some of my actions but I also have a unique perspective now that I didn’t possess prior to my incarceration,” Shapiro said, “the sentence I received wasn’t appropriate or, in my opinion, constitutional. However, I’m not bitter and, in fact, I’m rejuvenated and just really appreciate simplicity now.” While in prison, Shapiro worked endless hours assisting Capitol’s Trustee to claw back over $45 Million for his lenders. Shapiro added, “Who does that after having the book thrown at them? I could have taken my sentence and gotten bitter but I wasn’t brought up that way by my parents.”
Shapiro is expected to be released from home confinement in June 2026. I asked Shapiro what his plans were for the next chapter of his life and he responded. ” I spent my first two years of home confinement just touching the ground and getting reprogrammed into society after over 10 years of being away. To be honest , I found that to be way more difficult than I had ever imagined, but now I’m really focused on my next moves. That includes public speaking with regards to the experience I have lived. Prison reform is a passionate topic for me as well and I just want to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I have contrition and humility and truly feel blessed to see the world open up again for me.”