Four NCAA Division I basketball coaches have been placed under arrest and charged in a massive college basketball fraud and corruption scheme, the Department of Justice reported in late September.
The acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Joon Kim, announced a years-long federal probe that had been conducted undercover until it was announced on Sept. 26. This announcement was made three days before college basketball teams were allowed to begin official practices.
The named coaches so far that are facing corruption charges are Chuck Person, Auburn’s associate head coach; Tony Bland, USC’s associate head coach; Lamont Evans, Oklahoma State’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator; and Emanuel Richardson, Arizona’s assistant coach.
The FBI and the US Attorney’s Office have been working together since 2015 to investigate how money is being used in a criminal nature with coaches and student athletes in college basketball. The FBI has detailed extensive allegations in three complaints that are more than 100 pages long.
At the news conference announcing the federal corruption, Kim portrayed the coaches as highly corrupt and people who sold out their players to make themselves rich. The federal charging documents allege that coaches took bribes in exchange for pressuring players to sign up with financial advisers and managers and clothes companies once they got into the NBA.
Kim noted that these coaches at some of the top college basketball programs were soliciting and accepting bribes and encouraged financial advisers and managers to work with blue chip prospects. They also secretly funneled illegal money to families of top high school prospects.
Some of those charged were associated with professional money managers and advisers, and others were tied to Adidas. Kim stated that for these men, bribing coaches was a financial investment. They were aware that the corrupt coaches could be bribed and in return would push the players to use their financial services. They also knew if those players went into the NBA, this would mean a lot of money for them in profits and fees.
Two Different Corrupt Schemes
Kim stated in late September at the press conference announcing the federal charges that there were two related but different schemes. The first one had coaches taking bribes in exchange for pushing players and families towards these financial advisers. The second scheme focused on managers, advisers and Adidas employees sending more than $100,000 to families of some of the top high school basketball players in the country, in exchange for the player committing to a school that was sponsored by Adidas.
Kim added that while the coaches did not show regard for the well being of their players. They only cared about the cash they were receiving, he said.
Person is facing federal charges of conspiracy, fraud and solicitation of bribes. According to the FBI, Person abused his role as a coach to solicit and obtain bribes from financial advisers who actually were working undercover for the FBI. In exchange, Person agreed to push the athlete to retain that adviser’s services when he started in the NBA.
The FBI stated that Person was paid $91,500 over 10 months and he claimed to have given $18,500 of it to the families of two athletes. The FBI also has Person on tape agreeing to a $50,000 bribe in November 2016.
Another FBI complaint has Bland, Evans and Richardson’s counts of solicitation of bribes and conspiracy. It is alleged that Evans received $22,000 in bribes in a scheme that involved Christian Dawkins, who is an ex-Adidas employee who was fired for spending money that was unauthorized on a client’s credit card. Dawkins tried to start a sports management company and it through that entity that Adidas wanted to funnel money to student athletes’ families.
In exchange for cash, the FBI stated, Evans urged players at South Carolina and Oklahoma State to use the financial advisers who had given him bribes.
It is alleged that Richardson received $20,000 in bribes that were most likely paid by Dawkins and possibly another party. The FBI stated that Richardson seems to have saved some money for his own uses and paid at least one student athlete in high school. In exchange for the cash, Richardson pushed college players to use Dawkins as their financial manager.
Bland is charged with accepting at least $13,000 in bribes that were paid or facilitated by Dawkins.
Reckless Disregard for the Law
Kim noted in the press conference that the coaches had a reckless disregard for the law and were interested only in personal gain. He said that a simple Internet search of the financial adviser that was working with the FBI would have shown that he was charged in 2016 with securities fraud by the SEC.
Kim added that if one reads the alleged allegations in the three complaints over 100 pages, it reveals what he called ‘the dark underbelly of college basketball.’ The FBI was able to access this world through a cooperative witness and two undercover FBI agents who pretended to be corrupt financial advisers. The FBI also obtained many court-authorized wiretaps and made hundreds of legal recordings. Through the recordings, the FBI was able to reveal the defendants’ allegedly criminal conduct.
The FBI quoted Dawkins bragging that he and the others involved could be running college basketball with the illegal scheme and make millions off of one player if it was done correctly. He also was caught stating on recording that all the payments could not be tracked on paper because some of it was ‘whatever you want to call it, illegal.’
Kim stated in the press conferences that Dawkins was right, it was illegal. The FBI also added that the defendants all were involved in a pay to play culture in college basketball that has tainted the sport. It warned that the charges should serve as a stark warning to other college basketball programs to play by the rules, or else.