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US alleges bribery, kickbacks at top NCAA basketball programs

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U.S. authorities on Tuesday unveiled fraud charges against 10 people, including four coaches and an Adidas AG executive, associated with some of the country’s premier college basketball programs following a multi-year corruption probe.

Prosecutors said they uncovered many instances in which apparel executives, financial advisers and others bribed assistant college coaches to steer elite players to them, with some money going to athletes’ families.

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Bribes also went to star high school players to win their commitments to play for particular schools, prosecutors said.

The charges include bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy, and arose from a probe that began in 2015 of “the criminal influence of money” on basketball governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, prosecutors said.

Perhaps the best-known defendant charged is Chuck Person, a former National Basketball Association star who is now an associate head coach at Auburn University, his alma mater.

The other coaches charged are Anthony “Tony” Bland, from the University of Southern California; Lamont Evans, from Oklahoma State University; and Emanuel “Book” Richardson, from the University of Arizona.

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Among the other defendants are James Gatto, director for global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas and Rashan Michel, founder and operator of a clothing company in Atlanta.

A money manager, Munish Sood, was also charged, as was a onetime sports agent, Christian Dawkins.

Representatives of the universities and the NCAA, which regulates college basketball, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Adidas said in an email that one of its employees had been arrested. “We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more,” it said.

Sood’s firm was not named in court papers. A spokeswoman for a firm matching its description had no immediate comment.

Contact information for lawyers for the other defendants could not immediately be located.

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Person was a two-time All-American at Auburn and became its all-time scoring leader. He later played for the Indiana Pacers and other teams in a 13-year NBA career.

Prosecutors said Person accepted $91,500 of bribes over 10 months to steer Auburn basketball players he thought capable of joining the NBA to buy suits from Michel and hire an unnamed cooperating witness to provide financial services. They said he kicked back $18,500 to the families of two of the players.

Person allegedly told a current Auburn player at a secretly recorded December 2016 meeting at a Manhattan hotel that he knew some help he was providing was “a violation … of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done, they get early relationships, and they form partnerships, they form trust.”

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In a separate complaint, prosecutors said Gatto and others funneled $100,000 from Adidas, identified as “Company-1,” to a high school basketball player’s family to secure his commitment to play at a Kentucky university sponsored by Adidas.

Prosecutors also said the player agreed to sign a contract with Adidas upon turning professional.

The university is not named, but its description matches that of the University of Louisville. The school did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan was holding a news conference to discuss the charges.

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(Reporting By Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Dan Grebler)


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BUSTED: Tea Party leader stole $10 million from gullible right-wing donors

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According to Politico, Kelley Rogers, a Maryland-based GOP consultant, pleaded guilty to wire fraud this week.

Rogers, who ran multiple right-wing action committees including Conservative Majority Fund and Tea Party Majority, took in $10 million from mostly small donors since 2012, but only disbursed $48,400 to politicians.

The rest of the money, according to prosecutors, was used to pay himself and his friends, as well as settle legal fees from a state lawsuit investigating his political activity — all the while sending emails to donors bragging about how much he was doing to fight President Barack Obama and illegal immigration.

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Pentagon washes hands of Turnberry incident — refers all questions to the White House

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Politico reporter Natasha Bertrand uncovered the way President Donald Trump is profiting off of military stop-overs at his Trump Turnberry golf resort. However, now it seems the Pentagon isn't interested in answering questions.

"House Oversight requested that the Pentagon turn over communications/emails relating to Turnberry. But the Pentagon referred that request to the White House," she tweeted Wednesday.

https://twitter.com/NatashaBertrand/status/1174395749188231168

Typically the Congress is in charge of Pentagon budgets and the Pentagon has information on their spending. In this case, however, the military is refusing to answer questions, telling Trump to talk to the press instead.

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Even without Shane Gillis, ‘SNL’ has always been a conservative show

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The whiplash-inducing news cycle around nonstarter “Saturday Night Live” cast member Shane Gillis got a little more juice Tuesday, with some eye opening insights from Variety.

According to writers Joe Otterson and Michael Schneider, the hiring of the Philadelphia comic and podcaster — whose lengthy and recent history of racist and homophobic remarks took exactly the length of a Google search to reveal — was no fluke. Instead, “According to sources, the long-running NBC comedy show and series mastermind Lorne Michaels were actively looking to cast a comedian for its new season who would appeal to more conservative viewers. This was meant to counteract the appearance of a liberal bias on the show.” Which is the first funny Shane Gillis-related thing I’ve heard.

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