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Adidas Executive, College Basketball Recruiting Insiders Convicted In SDNY Corruption Case

U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami
U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami Photo Credit: File

Three whistleblowers have been convicted have been convicted for funneling money to top prospects to steer them toward some of college basketball’s biggest programs.

James Gatto, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins are facing up to 20 years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud for their roles in running schemes to recruit players in violation of NCAA rules. The three were tried in Manhattan federal court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.

Gatto, the director of global basketball sports marketing at Adidas, Code, an Adidas consultant and Dawkins, an aspiring manager of professional athletes, brokered and facilitated payments funded by Adidas to the families of high school and college-aged basketball players.

Those players then committed to Adidas-sponsored schools with a promise that the players also would retain the services of Dawkins and sign endorsement deals with Adidas upon turning professional.

Two others, Munish Sood, a financial advisor, and Thomas Gassnola, a former Adidas consultant have previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.

According to U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami, the men went through great lengths to conceal the fraud from the schools, including Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State, some of the top programs in the country each year.

Longtime Westchester resident Rick Pitino, the former Knicks coach, was fired after the fallout from the scandal.

Khuzami noted that the three men and their co-conspirators - who included the families of the student-athletes and corrupt coaches at the universities - knew that for the scheme to succeed and athletic scholarships to be awarded, the illicit payments had to be concealed from the universities, and that certifications, falsely representing that the student-athletes were eligible to compete in Division I athletics, would be submitted to the universities.

The scheme involved the exchange of tens of thousands of dollars to student-athletes and their families in violation of NCAA regulations. The latest conviction comes nearly a year after longtime Westchester resident Rick Pitino was fired with $44 million left on his contract by Louisville amid the investigation.

“Today’s convictions expose an underground culture of illicit payments, deception and corruption in world of college basketball,” Khuzami stated. “These defendants now stand convicted of not simply flouting the rules but breaking the law for their own personal gain.

"As a jury has now found, the defendants not only deceived universities into issuing scholarships under false pretenses, they deprived the universities of their economic rights and tarnished an ideal which makes college sports a beloved tradition by so many fans all over the world.”

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