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NCAA coaches among 10 charged with fraud, corruption

September 26, 2017, 1:18 pm

Four assistant college basketball coaches were among those arrested on federal corruption charges Tuesday after they were caught taking bribes to steer NBA-destined players toward certain sports agents and financial advisers, authorities said.

Auburn assistant Chuck Person, Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, Arizona assistant Emanuel Richardson and USC assistant Tony Bland were named in court documents on Tuesday.

James Gatto, the director of global sports marketing at Adidas, was also targeted in the probe, as well as financial advisors and managers.

"The madness of college basketball went beyond March," said Joon Kim, the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Court papers show the FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on charges and student athletes affiliated with the NCAA since 2015.

Oklahoma State released the following statement on Tuesday.

"We were surprised to learn this morning of potential actions against one of our assistant basketball coaches by federal officials," the statement read. "We are reviewing and investigating the allegations. We are cooperating fully with officials.

"Let it be clear we take very seriously the high standards of conduct expected in our athletic department. We will not tolerate any deviation from those standards."

USC athletic director Lynn Swann released the following statement on behalf of his school on Tuesday.

"We were shocked to learn this morning through news reports about the FBI investigation and arrests related to NCAA basketball programs, including the arrest of USC assistant coach Tony Bland," the statement read.

"USC Athletics maintains the highest standards in athletic compliance across all of our programs and does not tolerate misconduct in any way. We will fully cooperate with the investigation and will assist authorities as needed, and if these allegations are true, we will take the needed action."

The sealed FBI complaint against Gatto and others also includes a reference to a "public research university located in Kentucky," with ESPN -- citing sources -- reporting that it's the University of Louisville.

The complaint details that the unnamed school -- identified as "University-6" -- has an enrollment of approximately 22,640, which matches that of Louisville during the 2016-17 academic year. It also states that the school offers approximately 21 varsity sports teams, which is the same offered by the Cardinals, according to the athletics department's website.

The allegations against the unnamed school in Kentucky include payments of $100,000 from a sports apparel company to the family of an unnamed player, identified as "Player 10," to ensure him signing with the school.

The indictment also says that prior to paying Player-10's family, the defendants "first needed time to generate a sham purchase order and invoice ostensibly to justify using Company-1 funds since they could not lawfully pay the family of Player-10 directly and risk that such prohibited payments be revealed."

Gatto is accused of helping funnel approximately $100,000 to the family of an "All-American high school basketball player" to secure the prospect's commitment to a school Adidas sponsors. According to documents, the prospect committed in June. The only "All-American high school basketball player" who committed to a school Adidas sponsors in June is Brian Bowen, who is currently enrolled at Louisville.

"We got lucky on this one," Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said of the commitment in June. "I had an AAU director call me and say, 'Would you be interested in a basketball player?' I said ... 'Yeah, I'd be really interested.' But (Bowen and his people) had to come in unofficially, pay for their hotels, pay for their meals. So we spent zero dollars recruiting a five-star athlete who I loved when I saw him play. In my 40-some-odd years of coaching, this is the luckiest I've been."

A number of powerhouse programs, including Arizona, Oregon, Michigan State and Creighton, were among the finalists considered by the 6-foot-7 Bowen.

"I don't know anything about that," Bowen's mother, Carrie Malecke, told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday. "I don't know anything about that. I'm not aware of anything like that. Not me. I had no idea."

Pitino will be suspended for the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games in the 2017-18 season for failing to monitor his men's basketball program in the wake of a sex scandal, the Division I Committee on Infractions announced on June 15.

The Cardinals also will be on probation for four years, have scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. Louisville will also forfeit any money received through conference revenue sharing from the 2012-15 NCAA Tournaments.

Adidas also 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," Adidas said in a statement.

Person was a star player at Auburn and led the school to its first three NCAA Tournament appearances (1984-86) before going on to a 14-year NBA career. He was Rookie of the Year with the Indiana Pacers in 1986-87. He returned to Auburn as an assistant coach in 2014.

According to documents, Person received $91,500 in bribery payments to allegedly influence two unnamed Auburn players to certain agents and financial advisors.

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