Adidas exec and NCAA coaches busted in alleged bribery scheme

September 26, 2017, 3:17pm

Alleging rampant corruption in college basketball, federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed a handful of criminal complaints Tuesday charging assistant coaches, financial advisers, and even a high-ranking executive at Adidas with illegally bribing college athletes.

The scope of the investigation unveiled by the Manhattan office of the Department of Justice is vast and references a number of top programs, including Auburn, the University of Southern California, and the University of Arizona.

Authorities say the investigation is ongoing.

In a press conference Tuesday, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim described the defendants as “circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes,” exploiting their influence over the players for their own financial gain.

One of the assistant coaches named in the indictment, Chuck Person — a former NBA player who now works at Auburn — is accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for directing outgoing college athletes toward a financial adviser. The adviser, who is not named in the case, has been cooperating after being charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission last year for engaging in similar fraud, and helped the FBI and DOJ set up a sting operation, according to the complaint released Tuesday morning.

The three other coaches named in the indictment, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Emanuel Richardson of the University of Arizona, and Anthony Bland of the University of Southern California, are also accused of taking bribes to entice college players to work with specific agents once they went pro.

Kim also outlined the charges of money laundering and wire fraud against James Gatto, the global head of sports marketing for basketball at Adidas, who allegedly arranged to pay top high school athletes to attend Adidas-sponsored schools.

While the complaint doesn’t specifically name the program, signs point toward the University of Louisville, which is sponsored by Adidas after signing a $160 million deal with them in August. The school has since confirmed it was implicated in the investigation.

Kim said the NCAA was unaware of the investigation and was not asked to cooperate.

Several of the universities named in the indictment distanced themselves from the alleged activities after the charges dropped. Oklahoma State issued a statement saying the school was “surprised to learn this morning of potential actions against one of our assistant basketball coaches by federal officials. We are reviewing and investigating the allegations. We are cooperating fully with officials.” In a separate statement, USC said that it would “cooperate fully with the investigation,” and interim university president at the University of Louisville, Gregory Postel, said in his own statement that, “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.”

Adidas also said in a statement that the company only became aware of the investigation on Tuesday and is now cooperating with authorities.

Kim emphasized at the end of the press conference that the investigation wasn’t about regulating college basketball, but added “if we find that you’re engaged in [this type of conduct], you will be prosecuted.”