The court documents revealed Tuesday in the ongoing FBI investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball paint a disturbing picture of the sport’s inner workings.
‘You can make millions off of one kid,’ NBA agent Christian Dawkins allegedly told an undercover agent posing as the financial backer in a bribery scheme aimed at pushing college basketball players into the waiting arms of agents and financial advisors.
On Tuesday the FBI and Justice Department announced a massive crackdown on what they have described as the ‘dark underbelly’ of college basketball after 10 people – including four assistant coaches – were arrested as part of a widespread investigation into systemic bribery and corruption involving several schools.
NBA agent Christian Dawkins seen here leaving Federal Court in Manhattan on Tuesday
According to acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan Joon H. Kim, the investigation was launched in 2015 and focuses on ‘the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the N.C.A.A.’
Specifically, two schemes were investigated: one in which recruits and their families were paid to go to particular universities and another in which player advisors were paid to persuade those players to sign with certain managers, agents, and financial advisors.
No schools have been charged with any wrongdoing, but the University of Louisville announced it ‘received notice that it is included in a federal investigation involving criminal activity related to men’s basketball recruiting.’
The University of Arizona is also connected to the investigation as assistant Wildcats coach Emanuel Richardson is accused of taking bribes for his efforts to persuade his players to sign with Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood.
Acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan Joon H. Kim said the picture of college basketball painted by these criminal charges is ‘not a pretty one’
According to the documents, an undercover FBI agent working on behalf of Dawkins and Sood helped funnel $20,000 to Richardson to help recruit an unnamed player to Arizona (the player is referred to only as ‘Player-5’).
In exchange for the bribe, Richardson agreed to use his influence over Arizona players to ‘pressure them’ to retain Dawkins and Sood as their agent and financial adviser, respectively, upon turning pro.
Arizona assistant coach Emanuel Richardson
Sood would go on to discuss the possibility of paying other coaches at Arizona with a cooperating FBI witness in the case, saying that he would be meeting a pair of Wildcat coaches for dinner during March’s Pac-12 Tournament.
The FBI observed the dinner in Las Vegas with Sood talking with two unidentified males. The next day, Soon had three phone calls with a number assigned to Richardson and two more calls with another Arizona assistant, before telling the cooperating witness that the coaches were ‘interested in definitely working with us.’
‘As of right now, [the Arizona coaches] haven’t asked for anything, but I’m sure when the time comes, they will, right?’ Sood said to the witness, according to the federal documents.
In early May, Sood and Dawkins had a conversation that was intercepted by wiretap in which Sood offered to help fund Dawkins’s new management company. (Dawkins was fired by ASM sports earlier in the year after it was revealed that he had made around $42,000 in Uber charges on an NBA player’s credit card, according to the NBA players’ association. ASM was raided on Tuesday in connection with the FBI investigation and founder Andy Miller’s computer was seized).
On or around May 2, according to the documents, Sood and Dawkins had a conversation — also intercepted by the wiretap — where they discussed the possibility of Dawkins starting his own management company.
‘We can help you fund it,’ Sood concluded.
(From left to right) Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, Tony Bland of USC, and Auburn’s Chuck Person were all charged following an FBI investigation
That month, the FBI introduced an undercover agent to Sood and Dawkins through the cooperating witness, who said the undercover agent was a ‘financial backer’ and someone ‘interested in helping to provide funding’ for Dawkins.
In conversations that the documents claim were recorded on audio and video, Sood would go on to meet with the undercover agent in Miami to discuss building a new sports management agency that intended to pay coaches to help obtain clients.
Days later in New York, the undercover agent asked Dawkins how he could ‘guarantee’ a player would sign with their management agency after turning pro.
‘If we take care of everybody and everything is done, we control everything,’ Dawkins replied, according to the documents. ‘You can make millions off of one kid.’
Weeks later, the witness, undercover agent, and Sood met in New Jersey to discuss the management agency. During that meeting they all took part in a phone call with Dawkins, according to the court documents.
One of the two schemes involved managers and advisors bribing college coaches, who persuaded top recruits and their families to sign with those managers and advisors
Another scheme involved an Adidas rep, James Gatto, and his associates funneling cash to top recruits in order to push them towards colleges that had sponsorship deals with Adidas
WHO IS ACCUSED OF WHAT?
- Adidas global sports marketing director Jim Gatto and three other defendants are accused of bribing three recruits with the intention of pushing them to particular schools that are sponsored by Adidas. In one case, Gatto is accused of funneling $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to persuade that player to attend an unnamed school in Kentucky.
- The University of Louisville signed a $160 million sponsorship deal with Adidas in August. And although the school was not named in the court documents, a spokesman released a statement in which the university acknowledged it had ‘received notice that it is included in a federal investigation involving criminal activity related to men’s basketball recruiting.’
- Louisville’s Brian Bowen is a five-star recruit whose family was allegedly bribed by Gatto, according to multiple reports. Bowen is currently a freshman and awaiting his first season with the Cardinals after choosing Louisville over other basketball powerhouses such as Michigan State, Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. The 19-year old has NOT been charged.
- The University of Miami may have been the ‘private research university located in Florida’ that received a commitment from a player who allegedly received $150,000 in bribes from Gatto and an accomplice. The school has not acknowledged whether or not it’s involved in the investigation, but details in the court filing make it clear that U of M is being referenced.
- Auburn Assistant coach Chuck Person, a former NBA star who won Rookie of the Year in 1987, is accused of taking bribes from a cooperating witness in exchange for steering a player to agent Rishan Michel. In total, Person is accused of accepting a total of $91,500 in the case, the complaint says. He’s also accused of passing along $18,500 to the families of two recruits. He faces bribery, wire fraud and other charges.
- Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans, Arizona assistant coach Emanuel Richardson and USC assistant Tony Bland were charged with solicitation of bribery for accepting payments to persuade players to sign with specific agents. According to the documents, the three received payments in ‘excess of $10,000.’
- Jonathan Brad Augustine is accused of laundering payments through the Adidas-sponsored program ‘1 Family AAU,’ which he runs. He is also accused of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy.
- NBA agent Christian Dawkins and financial adviser Munish Sood are accused of bribing Person, Evans, Richardson, and Bland in exchange for the coaches’ agreement to push players to retain Dawkins and Sood’s services after signing with an NBA team.
Sood asked Dawkins about his relationship with Arizona coaches, to which Dawkins replied: ‘I can go to [Arizona’s] practices like I’m on the team. The coaches … I know them all anyway, we’re friends.’
Later, in a call between Sood and Dawkins that was intercepted wiretap, Sood asked Dawkins to ‘send us a list of … your top 10 or 15 coaches that, you know, we could be working with going forward.’
Dawkins agreed, according to the documents, and provided a list that included Richardson’s name, as well as USC assistant Tony Bland, who was also charged on Tuesday.
USC assistant coach Tony Bland (left) and Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson (seated in the photo on the right) are two of the four coaches allegedly involved in the criminal conspiracy
Days later, Sood, Dawkins, the witness, and three undercover FBI agents met in Manhatta to sign a shareholder agreement for Dawkins’ new sports agency.
Dawkins went on to mention Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans, who was also charged Tuesday, but cautioned that Evans was not as influential as Richardson, according to the documents.
‘If you’re gonna fund those kind of guys,’ Dawkins allegedly said, referring to Richardson and other ‘elite’ assistant coaches, ‘I mean like we’d be running college basketball.’
According to the documents, Dawkins allegedly told Richardson he could earn $5,000 or more per month in bribes, adding that one player at Arizona had already received payments.
That player, ‘Player-5,’ was a high school prospect who Richardson paid to bring to Arizona, according to the documents. Richardson told Dawkins that the player would be on campus that weekend.
Five-star recruit Jahvon Quigly was allegedly paid by Richardson to attend Arizona
According to The Lexington Herald-Leader, five-star recruit Jahvon Quinerly visited Arizona that weekend.
Richardson would go on to meet with Sood, his assistant, the cooperating witness and two undercover FBI agents to discuss their operation, according to the documents. The Arizona coach was then recorded telling the group that he would tell his players to retain Dawkins when they turned professional.
‘At the end of the day these kids — and they are kids — my job is to try to put them in the best possible situation so everyone can be solid (and) make as much money as possible,’ Richardson said.
Richardson was paid $5,000 at that meeting, according to the documents.
In July, Dawkins allegedly called Richardson about giving $15,000 to ‘Player-5’ in order to persuade him to attend Arizona.
Dawkins allegedly told the undercover agents that Arizona head coach Sean Miller ‘is talking out of his mouth, he wants [Player-5] bad as [expletive]. So, I mean, the leverage I have with that program would be ridiculous at that point.’
The documents allege that ‘on or about August 9, 2017, Player-5 verbally committed to attending [Arizona].’
Quinerly committed to Arizona on Aug. 8.
A fourth assistant coach – Auburn’s Chuck Person – was also arrested and charged on Tuesday.
Person, a former NBA Rookie of the Year, has been suspended by the school.
In a statement, NCAA president Mark Emmert said the organization has ‘no tolerance whatsoever’ for the behavior described in the court documents, calling the allegations ‘deeply disturbing.’
Auburn’s Chuck Person (pointing), who previously worked as a Los Angeles Lakers assistant and was once the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, is accused of receiving nearly $100,000 in bribes
‘Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust,’ Emmert continued. ‘We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing criminal federal investigation.’
In all, 10 people were charged in New York City federal court, including managers, financial advisors, and sportswear company representatives.
Adidas global sports marketing director Jim Gatto was also named as a defendant, and according to the allegations, he conspired with coaches to pay recruits to play at Adidas-sponsored schools. Gatto and four others were charged with ‘making and concealing bribe payments’ to students and their families.
Adidas was not named specifically in the filing, but was instead referred to as ‘Company-1.’
Gatto and his fellow defendants are accused of funneling $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to persuade that player to attend a school in Kentucky. That school was not named, but Louisville did sign a $160 million deal with Adidas in August.
No player is named in the court documents. However, according to multiple reports, that recruit may have been five-star prospect Brian Bowen, an All-American from Indiana who chose Louisville over other national powerhouse programs such as Michigan State, Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon.
Thus far, no coach at the University of Louisville has been charged or even named in the court documents.
‘While we are just learning about this information,’ read Louisville’s statement, ‘this is a serious concern that goes to the heart of our athletic department and the university. UofL is committed to ethical behavior and adherence to NCAA rules; any violations will not be tolerated. We will cooperate fully with any law enforcement or NCAA investigation into the matter.’
Brian Bowen (left after committing to Louisville and right playing at La Lumiere School in Indiana) is reportedly the recruit whose family received a $100,000 bribe
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is already suspended for five games of the upcoming season after it was revealed that a team manager secured strippers for recruits
An undercover agent connected with the investigation claimed that Gatto told other defendants that the bribes were on his company’s books, but were not allocated honestly.
The N.C.A.A. already placed Louisville on probation and suspended coach Rick Pitino for five games after it was revealed that strippers were provided to basketball recruits by basketball operations director Andre McGee. Louisville is appealing the decision, but the school may ultimately be forced to vacate dozens of wins and the team’s 2013 national championship the NCAA’s ruling is not vacated.
Louisville’s basketball program is on probation, and has dealt with a pair of embarrassing scandals. Head coach Pitino is suspended for the first five ACC conference games of Louisville’s 2017-18 season and wins were vacated because of a sex scandal that included basketball operations director Andre McGee hiring escorts to strip for and have sex with Cardinals players and prospective recruits. Louisville is appealing, but if the NCAA’s ruling is not overturned, the Cardinals’ 2013 championship will be among the wins the program has to vacate.
Adidas released a statement on Tuesday: ‘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.’
Gatto and an accomplice are also accused of spending $150,000 for a player’s agreement to attend a ‘private research university located in Florida’ that has roughly 16,000 students, 15 Division I teams, and a sponsorship deal with Adidas.
According to the Miami New Times, those details are congruent with the University of Miami, which previously inked a 12-year partnership with Adidas worth $90 million.
The school has yet to acknowledge if it is under investigation.
The FBI and Justice Department had been investigating the alleged conspiracy since 2015