Four college basketball assistant coaches hit with federal fraud, corruption charges
Emanuel 'Book' Richardson, Chuck Person, Lamont Evans and Tony Bland have been arrested
The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York announced early Tuesday that charges of fraud and corruption have been brought against four current college basketball assistant coaches -- namely Arizona's Emanuel "Book" Richardson, Auburn's Chuck Person, Oklahoma State's Lamont Evans and USC's Tony Bland. Managers, financial advisers and representatives of a major sportswear company have also been charged with federal crimes in a scandal that has rocked the sport.
"The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one," Joon H. Kim, the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. "Coaches at some of the nation's top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits. ... For the 10 charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March. Month after month, the defendants exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, allegedly treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes."
Each arrested coach is facing up to 80 years in prison.
Person is accused of, among other things, accepting payments from an agent who was trying to development a business relationship with some of Auburn's players -- including sophomore Austin Wiley. Richardson, Evans and Bland are accused of similar crimes. According to documents, Richardson was also caught on a wiretap discussing using money to recruit a prospect for Arizona.
Auburn suspended Person without pay Tuesday afternoon. Shortly thereafter, USC announced it has hired former FBI director Louis J. Freeh and his firm to conduct an investigation into the allegations against Bland, who has been placed on administrative leave. Oklahoma State subsequently announced that Evans has been suspended with pay. And Arizona then suspended Richardson.
Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing at Adidas, was among those also arrested. He's 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. He's now enrolled at Louisville.
"I don't know anything about that," Bowen's mother, Carrie Malecke, told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday when asked about the allegations. "I don't know anything about that. I'm not aware of anything like that. Not me. I had no idea."
Louisville coach Rick Pitino was asked about Bowen's commitment back in June.
"We got lucky on this one," Pitino said. "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."
Pitino released a statement Tuesday night.
"These allegations come as a complete shock to me," Pitino 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 far better, and I am committed to taking whatever steps are needed to ensure those responsible are held accountable."
NBA agent Christian Dawkins was among those arrested. According to documents, he told an unidentified Louisville assistant they would have to be "particularly careful" with how they passed money to a recruit's family because Louisville was already on probation. The Louisville coach agreed, according to documents, and said, "We gotta be very low key." Longtime NBA agent Andy Miller previously employed Dawkins. His office was raided Tuesday. The FBI reportedly left with Miller's computer.
Louisville's interim president, Gregory Postel, acknowledged Tuesday afternoon that his school has received notice that it is included in a federal investigation "involving criminal activity related to men's basketball recruiting." He added: "While we are just learning about this information, 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."
Louis Martin Blazer III, a former financial adviser who was accused of fraudulently obtaining $2.35 million from five clients by the Securities and Exchange Commission, is the unidentified cooperating witness who helped the FBI in its investigation of the defendants, a source told CBS Sports. He was accused of running a "Ponzi-like" scheme in May 2016.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott released a statement Tuesday afternoon.
"I am deeply troubled by the charges filed in federal court today against a number of individuals involved in college basketball -- including two assistant coaches employed by member institutions of our conference," Scott said. "Protection of our student-athletes, and of the integrity of competition, is the conference's top priority. I have been in contact with the leadership of both universities and it is clear they also take this matter very seriously. We are still learning the facts of this matter. But these allegations, if true, are profoundly upsetting to me. They strike at the heart of the integrity of our programs."
CBS Sports will be updating this breaking news story.
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