Norby Walters, charged with making illegal payments to college athletes and threatening them, says he was only doing for athletes the same things he had done for numerous entertainers over 40 years.

And he says the charges against him are are "completely and utterly groundless . . . vicious, outrageous and false."Walters, indicted along with partner Lloyd Bloom on charges of racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion, made his first statement on the charges in "An Open Letter to The Industry" published in this week's editions of "Billboard" and "Pollstar" magazines.

In it, he claims that in lending money to college athletes, he only made the loans to undergraduates against the possibility of future earnings, just as he did with show business figures he has represented.

He said he was unaware that was against the law.