Federal prosecutors charged four college basketball coaches Tuesday with taking bribes to help steer high school players to deals with their Adidas-sponsored schools and later with certain sports agents and financial advisers.
Auburn's Chuck Person, Oklahoma State's Lamont Evans, Arizona's Emanuel Richardson and South California's Tony Bland were arrested Monday night, and accused of fraud and corruption, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said.
Four others also were charged in New York federal court. They are managers, financial advisers and representatives of Adidas.
Adidas, a major international sportswear company, was accused of paying the families of high-school standouts to sign with two universities that had sponsorship deals.
"The picture painted by the charges is not a pretty one," Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District, said at news 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."
The FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money involving student athletes affiliated with the NCAA since 2015.
"Many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA," the complaints said.
"The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so."
The indictment alleges about $100,000 was to be paid to the family of "Player-10," a heavily recruited high school all-American, to steer him to a particular college. The college is identified as being in Kentucky. Sources told ESPN the program is the University of Louisville, which signed a 10-year, $160 million apparel contract with Adidas.
A Florida private school also mentioned in the court documents.
James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for Adidas, was accused of paying high school basketball players or their families for committing to sign with a university sponsored by company.
Person, a former star at Auburn and five NBA teams, allegedly accepted about $91,500 from a business manager, who is cooperating with the government during the investigation, according to prosecutors. That includes $18,500 to the families of two athletes.
Evans said because "every guy I recruit and get is my personal kid," he was able to steer them toward prospective agents and advisers, prosecutors said. For his services, Evans expected $2,000 per month but he could ask for an extra $5,000 to $7,000 "at the end of the day for delivering."
Evans, Richardson and Bland are accused of receiving benefits from agent Christian Dawkins and financial adviser Sood to influence student-athletes to use their services.
Dawkins is an NBA agent fired in May from ASM Sports for charging about $42,000 in Uber charges on a player's credit card.
Also charged were Merl Code, who recently left Nike for Adidas; Jonathan Brad Augustine, president of The League Initiative and program director of the Adidas-sponsored 1 Family AAU program; and Rashan Michel, a former NBA official who founded Thompson Bespoke Clothing, a custom clothier for athlete.
"Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee," Adidas said in a statement. "We are learning more about the situation. We're unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more."
Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC released statements they were fully cooperating in the investigation.
Auburn said that Person is suspended without pay effective immediately.
No head coaches were linked to allegations.
In a transcript, Dawkins said head coaches "ain't willing to [take bribes], cause they're making too much money. And it's too risky."