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Investigator looking into UNC fraud meets with reading specialist about academics, athletes

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CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina — The reading specialist who questioned the literacy level of athletes who were admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has met with an investigator looking into academic fraud at the school.

In an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday, Mary Willingham said she met with Kenneth Wainstein for more than two hours Monday in Chapel Hill.

UNC hired the former U.S. Justice Department official to conduct a review of possible fraud in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The alleged irregularities, dating to the 1990s, included lecture classes with significant athlete enrollments that didn't meet and were instead treated as independent studies requiring only a research paper.

Willingham has said those "paper classes" were designed to keep athletes academically eligible to remain in school.

Monday's meeting came three days after three experts hired by UNC issued reports saying Willingham's research data doesn't support claims of low athlete literacy levels here. She had told CNN in January that her research of 183 football or basketball players from 2004-12 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and roughly 10 percent below a third-grade level.

Wainstein's investigation is the latest to look into the AFAM fraud. One conducted by former Gov. Jim Martin in 2012 assigned blame to former department chairman Julius Nyang'oro and retired administrator Deborah Crowder. Nyang'oro has been indicted for being paid $12,000 to teach one of the paper classes filled with football players in the summer of 2011.

Brian Vick, Crowder's attorney, said his client met with Wainstein on March 19. Crowder hadn't cooperated with earlier investigations.

It was unclear when Wainstein would complete his investigation.

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