Four coaches named in alleged corruption scandal
Four college basketball assistant coaches have been named in an alleged corruption scandal, according to documents released by the U.S. District Attorney in New York on Tuesday morning.
Arizona’s Book Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans were the four coaches charged with fraud and corruption.
Managers, financial advisers and representatives of a major international sportswear company are also involved in the investigation. Jim Gatto, an executive with Adidas, was arrested, as was Christian Dawkins, a former NBA agent who was fired from ASM Sports after he used a player’s credit card to run up $42,000 of charges on Uber.
The offices of ASM were reportedly raided by the FBI on Tuesday, according to Darren Heitner of Forbes. The computer of Andy Miller, who represents the likes of Kristaps Prozingis, Austin Rivers and Myles Turner, was seized, according to Heitner
Munish Sood, a financial advisor, was also among the people caught up in the charges.
Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the NCAA, federal authorities said.
They said the probe has revealed numerous instances in which bribes were paid by athlete advisers, including financial advisers and associate basketball coaches, to assistant and associate basketball coaches to exert influence over student-athletes so the athletes would retain the services of those paying the bribes.
In criminal complaints, investigators said basketball coaches have the ability to provide access to the student-athletes to sports agents, financial advisers, business managers and others. Person was accused of accepting money from an agent who was trying to develop a relationship with Austin Wiley in order to sign him, a sophomore on the Tigers that was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. Richardson, Bland and Evans were accused of similar crimes.
“In exchange for bribes, Evans, Richardson and Bland agreed to direct certain student-athletes under their supervision to retain the business management and financial advisory services of Dawkins, Sood and/or [cooperating witness 1],” the documents read.
The cooperating witness was not named. In the documents released by the US Attorney on Tuesday, the witness is said to have agreed to a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over violations he committed “on or about May 6th, 2016". On May 6th, 2016, the SEC announced fraud charges against Louis Martin Blazer III, who founded Blazer Capital Management and who was accused of investing more than $2 million of professional athlete’s money without permission. Joon Kim, the district attorney speaking at a press conference this afternoon, said that the cooperating witness was a financial advisor that the SEC had brought charges against last year for misuse of athlete’s money.
ESPN obtained documents confirming that Blazer was the cooperating witness.
Gatto, who is the director of global sports marketing for Adidas, is alleged to have funneled $100,000 to a player that can be assumed is Brian Bowen, a freshman at Louisville. He is referred to in the documents as “an all-american high school basketball player” that committed to an Adidas-sponsored school in June. Bowen committed to Louisville, an Adidas school, in June.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino issued a statement Tuesday evening regarding the matter.
“These allegations come as a complete shock to me,” the statement said. “If true, I agree with the U.S. Attorneys Office that these third-party schemes, initiated by a few bad actors, operated to commit a fraud on the impacted universities and their basketball programs, including the University of Louisville. Our fans and supporters deserve better and I am committed to taking whatever steps are needed to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”
Adidas also released a statement.
“Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee. We are learning more about the situation. We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more,” the statement said.
“Many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA,” the complaints said. “The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so.”
Person was arrested in Alabama; Bland in Tampa, Florida; Evans in Oklahoma; and Richardson in Arizona.
Person, the associate head coach at Auburn University, was the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft in 1986 and was selected by the Indiana Pacers. He played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.