The FBI has arrested NCAA basketball officials on fraud and corruption charges

The FBI has arrested 10 college basketball officials, including four NCAA coaches, in connection with a fraud and corruption probe.

The probe has revealed numerous instances of bribes paid to assistant and associate basketball coaches to exert influence over student athletes, according to court documents filed Monday. The papers were unsealed on Tuesday.

The coaches arrested include Lamont Evans, an associate coach of Oklahoma State University, Chuck Person, an associate coach of Auburn University, Emanuel “Book” Richardson, an assistant coach of the University of Arizona and Tony Bland, an associate coach of the University of Southern California.

A criminal complaint has quoted Evans bragging about his ability to steer athletes toward prospective agents and advisers, promising “every guy I recruit and get is my personal kid.”

Lamont Evans, Oklahoma State basketball coach.

Icon Sportswire | AP Images
Lamont Evans, Oklahoma State basketball coach.

The remaining arrests are of managers, financial advisors and representatives of a major international sportswear company.

A representative from Oklahoma State University told CNBC: “We were 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. 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.”

According to court documents, the sports apparel executive listed is James “Jim” Gatto. Gatto’s LinkedIn profile identifies him as the director of global sports marketing, for basketball, at Adidas.

Gatto has been accused of getting $100,000 to an “All-American high school basketball player” — so the player would attend a school with an apparel contract with Adidas.

Jim Gatto, Director of Global Marketing at Adidas.

Source: YouTube
Jim Gatto, Director of Global Marketing at Adidas.

Shares of Adidas fell in Germany after the report.

“Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an adidas employee,” a spokeswoman from the international retailer told CNBC in a statement.

“We are learning more about the situation,” she added. “We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more.”

Court papers show the FBI has been conducting a bribery investigating involving athletic recruiting at NCAA schools since 2015.

In criminal complaints, investigators said basketball coaches have the ability to provide student athletes access to sports agents and other important figures.

Chuck Person, Auburn Assistant Coach during second half timeout of the Auburn Tigers vs Texas A&M Aggies SEC men's basketball action at Reed Arena, College Station, TX.

Icon Sportswire | AP
Chuck Person, Auburn Assistant Coach during second half timeout of the Auburn Tigers vs Texas A&M Aggies SEC men’s basketball action at Reed Arena, College Station, TX.

“Moreover, 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 court papers added.

The FBI made the 10 arrests Monday evening, a senior law enforcement official tells NBC News. Person was arrested in Alabama; Bland in Tampa, Florida; Evans in Oklahoma; and Richardson in Arizona.

The U.S. attorney for New York will hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon, offering more details.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This entry was posted in Sports Business. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply