UNITED STATES—Former Adidas executive James Gatto, Merl Code, and Christian Dawkins were sentenced to nine months in prison on Tuesday March, 5 for paying off families so top-tier college recruiters would visit ‘Adidas’ sponsored schools. They were found guilty in October 2018 by a federal jury of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges. The defendants were sentenced in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who presided over the jury trial.
Kaplan sentenced Gatto to 9 months, while Dawkins and Code each received 6 months behind bars. All three men allegedly worked together to influence and organized private payments to families of basketball players at two dozen schools. Kaplan indicated during the trial, “He hopes to send a great big warning light to the basketball world.”
Attorney for the United States Robert Khuzami said: “The sentences imposed today only begin to reflect the magnitude of the harm these defendants caused through a scheme that not only defrauded multiple public universities but upended the lives of young student-athletes and corrupted a game cherished by so many. Today’s sentences send a clear message to those who might be similarly tempted to corrupt collegiate athletics for their own personal gain that defrauding schools in connection with athletic scholarships is not just a rules violation but a crime, one that will result in a prison term.”
The payments, which the defendants took great lengths to conceal from the victim-universities, served to defraud the relevant universities in multiple ways including illicit payments to the families of student-athletes rendered those student-athletes ineligible to partake in collegiate athletics, scheme participants conspired to conceal these payments from the universities, causing them to provide or agree to provide athletic-based scholarships and financial aid under false and fraudulent pretenses. The scheme that Gatto, Code and Dawkins participated in defrauded the universities by depriving the universities of significant and necessary information regarding the non-compliance with NCAA rules by the relevant student-athletes and their families.
The NCAA has plans to implement an independent enforcement body to dispute major infringement cases by August.
“I recked my son’s life,” said the father of Brian Bowen Jr., a high school basketball star who dreamed to be recruited into the NBA until his father was paid $100,000 by schemers on behalf of his son to attend Louisville college.
The accused men pleaded guilty during their sentencing. Gatto stated, “I deeply regret my actions.”
“I realized more than ever, none of this was worth it,” said Dawkins.
“Somethings have got to be changed about college basketball,” said Code, a former Amateur Athletic Union.
The scheme involved the following schools, the University of Louisville, the University of Kansas and North Carolina State University.
Judge Kaplan ordered Code, 45, of Greer, South Carolina, and Dawkins, 26, of Atlanta, Georgia, to each pay restitution to the University of Louisville in the amount of $28,261. The court reserved the decision on the restitution for Gatp, 48, of Wilsonville, Oregon, and set a conference for April 9, 2019, at 10 a.m. Each of the three defendants was sentenced to two years of supervised release.
Written By Sanestina Hunter and Casey Jacobs