Two Adidas officials and an aspiring NBA agent were found guilty of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy Wednesday in connection with schemes to secretly pay the families of top basketball recruits in order to secure their commitments to Adidas-sponsored college teams.
The jury’s verdict, which came after more than two days of deliberations following a two-week trial, delivered a victory to federal prosecutors and FBI agents in New York City, who have spent more than three years investigating the college basketball black market, and have two more trials stemming from the probe scheduled for next year.
In siding with prosecutors, the jury embraced the government’s theory that, by paying the families of five top recruits amounts ranging from $2,500 to $90,000, in violation of NCAA rules, the men defrauded Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State, because the schools would not have awarded scholarships to those recruits if they had known about the illicit payments, and now face possible NCAA sanctions and financial penalties as a result.
The defendants - Jim Gatto, 48, a veteran Adidas basketball marketing manager; Merl Code, 44, a former consultant for Adidas basketball; and Christian Dawkins, 25, a former recruiter for ASM, a prominent sports agency - each face potential prison terms.
While wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy each carry potential prison sentences of up to 20 years, actual sentences can vary widely depending on a judge’s discretion. Legal observers of the case are not expecting Gatto, Code and Dawkins to receive sentences in excess of a few years each, with the likelihood that all will appeal, and request to remain free pending the outcome, which could take several years.