Four DI college basketball coaches charged with accepting bribes in federal corruption case
Four assistant basketball coaches at Division I schools and a top Adidas executive were among 10 people charged Tuesday with crimes including bribery and fraud as part of a wide-ranging federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Coaches at Auburn, Oklahoma State, Arizona and Southern California were all accused of accepting bribes in exchange for offering to steer players to preferred financial advisers, business managers and agents. A top Adidas executive and two associates were accused of arranging illicit payments for high school stars and their families to secure athlete commitments to Adidas-sponsored schools. And two other unnamed universities - whose descriptions in indictments match Louisville and Miami - were implicated as landing top basketball recruits thanks to the illicit payments outlined in indictments unsealed Tuesday.
"The picture painted by the charges brought today is not a pretty one," Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a midday news conference. "Coaches at some of the nation's top programs soliciting and accepting cash bribes. Mangers and financial advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes. And employees of one the world's largest sportswear companies . . . secretly funneling cash to the families of high school recruits."
The assistant coaches named in the indictments are Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Chuck Person of Auburn, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona and Tony Bland of USC. The coaches are charged with accepting bribes in exchange for steering athletes toward using the services of business executives including Jim Gatto, the head of sports marketing at Adidas, and Munish Sood, chief executive of financial advisory company Princeton Capital.
The complaint alleges that Gatto paid recruits to sign with Adidas-sponsored schools and then sign with Adidas once they turned professional. He was assisted in this scheme by Merl Code, another Adidas employee, according to the complaint. The payments were brokered by three men: Sood; Christian Dawkins, a business manager; and Jonathan Brad Augustine, who runs an Adidas-sponsored AAU basketball team. The payments were made with the promise that the players sign agreements with Dawkins and Sood once they turned professional.
The men agreed to pay $100,000 to the family of one recruit and $150,000 to the family of another recruit, the complaint alleges. The schools were not named, though one was described as "a public research university located in Kentucky" with approximately 22,640 students, which is the approximate student population of the University of Louisville. In August, the school announced that it had agreed to extend its apparel agreement with Adidas through 2028. The other school was described as "a private research university located in Florida" with approximately 16,000 students. This would seem to match up with the University of Miami, another Adidas-sponsored school.
The alleged conspirators are accused in the indictment of paying one recruit, described as an all-American, $100,000 to attend the university in Kentucky, with the payments designed to be concealed from both the school and the NCAA. The scheme was set in motion in May, after the player announced that he was looking at other schools. In June, after the alleged bribery scheme kicked in, the player announced his intention to attend the school in Kentucky, a decision that was regarded as a surprise. The payments were made at the request of "at least one coach" on that school's staff, according to the charging documents. Via tapped cellphone conversations heard by the FBI, the defendants also are accused of money laundering in an attempt to cover up the source of the payments.
During one recorded conversation between Dawkins, Sood and the FBI's informant, Dawkins stated that the easiest way to conduct such bribery schemes was through assistant coaches because head coaches "aren't willing [to take bribes] cause they're making too much money. And it's too risky." Plus, assistant coaches are better at getting "direct access" to the players, as opposed to head coaches.
The charging documents also allege that the defendants and an unnamed assistant coach from the Kentucky school devised a plan to pay another recruit, this one from the high school class of 2019, at a meeting in a Las Vegas hotel room that was surreptitiously videotaped by the FBI. The assistant coach from the Kentucky school was recorded as saying the scheme would have to be "low key" because the program already was on NCAA probation. The coach also was recorded giving Augustine, the AAU official, an envelope containing $12,700 in cash, which Dawkins said "will take care of July, of August." The scheme was patterned after the one used for the other recruit, according to the charging document.
In July, the alleged conspirators set forth a plan to pay $150,000 to a recruit from the class of 2018 to attend the Florida school, according to phone conversations overheard on further FBI wiretaps.
Person, the associate head coach at Auburn, is accused of accepting $91,500 from an unnamed financial adviser who was cooperating as an informant with the FBI. He was allegedly given the payments in exchange for his help in steering Auburn's basketball players toward services provided by the FBI's informant and a man named Rashan Michel, a former NCAA and NBA referee who owns an Atlanta clothing store that specializes in bespoke suits and counts numerous NBA and NFL athletes as clients. (Michel also was named as a defendant.)
The three men together met with a player on Auburn's basketball team at a Manhattan hotel room on Dec. 12 - the same day the Tigers played a game at Madison Square Garden against Boston College - with the purpose of steering the player toward the informant and Michel once he turned professional, according to charging documents.
Person also attempted to convince the player's mother to work with the financial adviser who was secretly cooperating with the FBI, stating that the adviser "would bring you guys some money" during the player's time at Auburn and telling her, falsely, that the adviser handled both his money and that of Charles Barkley, who attended Auburn in the 1980s before a successful pro career.
The FBI also alleges that Person attempted to steer another Auburn player and his family toward another financial adviser located in Alabama, with the hope that the player would be jointly represented by that person and the FBI's informant (thus ensuring that Person would be paid twice). The unnamed adviser declined to make payments to the player's family, so Person attempted to work out an arrangement between the family and the FBI's informant.
According to the charging documents, Person became involved in the scheme because he "needed money."