UA assistant basketball coach suspended, charged in bribery scheme
NEW YORK (AP) - In one of the biggest crackdowns on the corrupting role of money in college basketball, 10 men - including University of Arizona assistant basketball coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson - were charged Tuesday, Sept. 26, with using bribes to influence star athletes' choice of schools, shoe sponsors, agents, financial advisers, even tailors.
UA said Richardson, who is facing charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes by an agent of a federally funded organization, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy, has been suspended and the school will cooperate with authorities.
"We were made aware of the Department of Justice's investigation this morning and we are cooperating fully with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office," the school said in a news release.
University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins has released an official statement on the status of Emanuel Richardson, who was implicated Tuesday, Sept. 26 in the FBI's basketball investigation:
"I have directed the University of Arizona to initiate an independent investigation into the alleged actions of Emanuel Richardson and to retain an external law firm to conduct the investigation.
We also have reviewed the specific factual allegations in the criminal complaint and have initiated the dismissal process against Mr. Richardson.
The University of Arizona expects everyone who is part of our campus community to adhere to the highest ethical standards of behavior. Arizona Athletics has a strong culture of compliance that begins at the top and extends throughout the organization. Specifically, the athletics department has a documented history of strengthening institutional control by being proactive and comprehensive through rules education and program monitoring."
UA also postponed its basketball media day, which was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 27.
The four assistant coaches charged were identified as Richardson, Chuck Person of Auburn University, Tony Bland of the University of Southern California and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State.
Prosecutors said Richardson was paid a total of $20,000 in bribes, some of which he kept for himself and some of which he gave to at least one high school athlete to get him to play for Arizona.
According to the FBI, Richardson received $5,000 on June 20, 2017 while in Manhattan, N.Y. , and $15,000 one month later while in New Jersey.
"We were appalled to learn of the allegations as they do not reflect the standards we hold ourselves to and require from our colleagues," UA said in a news release. "The University of Arizona has a strong culture of compliance and the expectation is we follow the rules."
Some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes went to athletes and their families, none of whom were identified by name in court papers. Some of the money went to the coaches, to get them to use their considerable sway over their potentially NBA-bound players, federal prosecutors said.
"The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one," acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said. "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."The others charged were James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas; Rashan Michel, a maker of custom suits for some of the NBA's biggest stars; and various advisers and managers.
Most if not all of the 10 defendants were under arrest. Gatto's lawyer did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. It was not clear who would represent the coaches.
Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the influence of money on coaches and players in the NCAA. Kim noted that a special FBI hotline has been set up and invited anyone aware of additional corruption to come forward.
Prosecutors said the coaches took bribes to use their "enormous influence" steer players toward certain financial advisers and agents.
Adidas said it was unaware of any misconduct by an employee and vowed to fully cooperate with authorities.
Among other things, Gatto and others were accused of bribing high school athletes and their families at least three times this year in exchange for a commitment by the players to play basketball for two Adidas-sponsored universities not identified in court papers.
Arizona athletics are sponsored by Nike.
Court papers portrayed the universities as victims of the schemes, saying they paid out financial aid after their coaches falsely assured them they were unaware of any rules violations.
The investigation began after a financial adviser who ran a firm that catered to pro athletes began cooperating in 2014, providing information corroborated by recorded conversations and surveillance, authorities said.
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