NCAA College Basketball

Federal Prosecutors Target the ‘Dark Underbelly of College Basketball’

Unsealed criminal complaints accused the defendants of wide-ranging bribery schemes in which coaches used their outsized influence to sway young athletes’ business decisions. Prosecutors claimed the coaches abused their positions of trust for their own gain.

All of the allegations involve sports agent Christopher Dawkins and his associates, who paid out thousands of dollars to coaches. Person allegedly took almost $100,000 in payments to steer players toward specific financial advisers and business managers, according to one complaint. He allegedly gave $18,500 of the payments to the families of two student-athletes to encourage their cooperation.

After receiving $20,000 from adviser Manish Sood and Dawkins, Evans allegedly vouched for the two men to players and their parents, falsely claiming he’d personally benefited from their services. Bland, who allegedly received at least $13,000 from the pair, told them he could “definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.”

Sood and Dawkins were also charged. At stake for them and other participants was access to players who could earn millions of dollars throughout their future professional careers. Prosecutors accused Gatto of funneling $150,000 toward a high-school prospect’s family to secure his commitment to an unnamed university sponsored by Adidas. Part of the arrangement included the implicit understanding that the prospect would sign with Adidas when he entered the NBA, thereby providing even more revenue to the company in the future.

According to a complaint, Rashan Michel, a former NBA referee and the owner of an Atlanta-based clothing company that made suits for professional athletes, told a cooperating witness that “the fucking basketball guys [get] way more money than these fucking football guys,” and that “we can get us goddamn 10 basketball players in the next five years and we gonna … have to sit back and do absolutely nothing.” Prosecutors filed bribery- and fraud-related charges for his alleged role in facilitating bribes for Person.

“Month after month, the defendants allegedly exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes,” Kim said. “The defendants’ alleged criminal conduct not only sullied the spirit of amateur athletics, but showed contempt for the thousands of players and coaches who follow the rules, and play the game the right way.”

No charges were filed against any head coaches or college administrators, and the criminal complaints don’t suggest their active involvement. Indeed, the defendants may have deliberately excluded them from their schemes. In one of the complaints, investigators claim Dawkins said during a wiretapped phone call that partnering with associate coaches is more lucrative because head coaches “ain’t willing to [take bribes] ‘cause they’re making too much money. And it’s too risky.”

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