Adidas exec among 10 charged in basketball corruption probe

4 college basketball coaches also charged

A collection of Adidas NBA Superstar shoes are shown on display at the Adidas Store in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

NEW YORK (AP) — Four college basketball coaches were among those facing federal charges Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said.

The coaches were identified in court papers as Chuck Person of Auburn University, Emanuel Richardson of the University of Arizona, Tony Bland of the University of Southern California and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State. They are in federal custody and expected to make court appearances later Tuesday.

They were among 10 people charged in Manhattan federal court. Others included managers, financial advisers and representatives of a major international sportswear company. The details were to be discussed at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

CBS Sports reports Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing for Adidas Basketball, was among those arrested. Gatto is charged with 2 counts of wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

According to the complaint, Gatto conspired to disguise the payments in Adidas’s books by using fake invoices and false entries.

Following the news of the corruption probe, Adidas released a statement saying,

Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee. We are learning more about the situation. We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more.”

Business Insider reports Merl Code, the head of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League as of 2013 was also arrested.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Nike officials said Merl Code left the company 3 years ago and is no longer a Nike employee. Further they said:

Nike believes in fair and ethical play both in business and sports and strongly opposes any form of manipulation.”

Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the NCAA, federal authorities said.

They said the probe has revealed numerous instances in which bribes were paid by athlete advisers, including financial advisers and associate basketball coaches, to assistant and associate basketball coaches to exert influence over student-athletes so the athletes would retain the services of those paying the bribes.

In criminal complaints, investigators said basketball coaches have the ability to provide access to the student-athletes to sports agents, financial advisers, business managers and others.

“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 papers said.

Person was arrested in Alabama; Bland in Tampa, Florida; Evans in Oklahoma; and Richardson in Arizona.

Person, the associate head coach at Auburn University, was the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft in 1986 and was selected by the Indiana Pacers. He played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.

NCAA president Mark Emmert also released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying,

The nature of the charges brought by the federal government are deeply disturbing. We have no tolerance whatsoever for this alleged behavior.  Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust.  We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing criminal federal investigation.”

KOIN 6 News Reporter Trevor Ault contributed to this report