tonybland

Basketball Coach Used His Position to Enrich Himself US Attorney Says

Bland, a Former University of Southern California Men’s Basketball Coach, Pled Guilty to Accepting a Cash Bribe in Return for Steering College Players on His Team to Corrupt Financial Advisers

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ANTHONY BLAND, a/k/a “Tony,” a former men’s basketball coach at the University of Southern California (“USC”), pled guilty in Manhattan federal court today to taking a cash bribe from athlete advisers in exchange for using his influence over USC college basketball players to retain the services of the advisers paying the bribes.  BLAND pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.  Munish Sood, a financial adviser, previously pled guilty, pursuant to a cooperation agreement with the Government, in connection with this scheme. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As he admitted in court today, Tony Bland, a former USC men’s basketball coach, abused his position as a mentor and coach to student-athletes and aspiring professionals.  He treated his players not as young men to counsel and guide, but as opportunities to enrich himself.  Now Tony Bland awaits sentencing for his crime.”

According to the Complaint, the Indictment, statements made in court, and publicly available documents[1]:

BLAND, a former men’s basketball coach at USC, agreed to accept a cash bribe in connection with agreeing to exert his influence over student-athletes on USC’s Division I men’s basketball team to retain the services of the bribe-payers, including once the student-athletes entered the National Basketball Association.   BLAND’s co-defendants, with BLAND’s knowledge and approval, also funneled additional money to USC student-athletes and their families in connection with efforts to sign these potential professional athletes.

Beginning in or around July 2017, and continuing into September 2017, when BLAND was arrested, BLAND’s co-defendants paid and/or facilitated the payment of a cash bribe to BLAND in exchange for BLAND’s agreement to exert his influence over certain student-athletes BLAND coached at USC to retain BLAND’s co-defendant’s business management and/or financial advisory services once those players entered the NBA.  In particular, as BLAND told Christian Dawkins and Munish Sood, during a recorded meeting, in return for their bribe payment, “I definitely can get the players. . . .  And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.”  In addition, and as part of the scheme, with BLAND’s knowledge and approval, Dawkins and Sood paid or facilitated the payment of an additional $9,000 directly to the families of two student-athletes at USC.  In return, BLAND facilitated a meeting between Dawkins and Sood and a relative of a different player attending USC for the purpose of pressuring that player to retain the financial services of Dawkins and Sood.

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BLAND, 38, of Los Angeles, California, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.  As a condition of his plea, BLAND agreed to forfeit $4,100.  The charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  Sentencing is scheduled for April 2, 2019, before Judge Ramos.

Mr. Berman praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Robert Boone, Noah Solowiejczyk, and Eli J. Mark are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment against Christian Dawkins, Merl Code, Emmanuel Richardson, and Lamont Evans are merely accusations, and Dawkins, Code, Richardson, and Evans are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  Trial is scheduled to commence against the other defendants on April 22, 2019.

Code and Dawkins are scheduled to be sentenced on March 5, 2019, by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in United States v. Gatto, No. 17 Cr. 686 (LAK), based on their conviction for participating in a separate wire fraud scheme to make payments to the families of men’s basketball student-athletes in connection with their decisions to matriculate in Adidas-sponsored Division I schools.

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[1] The descriptions set forth below of conduct by BLAND’s co-defendants constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation with respect to BLAND’s co-defendants, including Christian Dawkins, Merl Code, Emmanuel Richardson, and Lamont Evans.

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