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Federal grand jury issues sweeping subpoenas to USC and 3 other schools in basketball bribery case

Federal grand jury issues sweeping subpoenas to USC and 3 other schools in basketball bribery case
Former Oklahoma State assistant basketball coach Lamont Evans leaves the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City after a court appearance on Sept. 27. (Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

As the federal investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball expands, a grand jury in New York has issued sweeping subpoenas to the four schools whose assistant coaches have been charged in the scandal: USC, Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State.

The subpoenas, confirmed by a person familiar with the process, were sent after the coaches were charged last month and seek a wide array of records in the case that has shaken the sport.

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USC has turned over computer data used by Tony Bland, the associate head coach facing charges that include soliciting a bribe and wire fraud, in addition to those of head coach Andy Enfield and assistants Jason Hart and Chris Capko, according to two people with knowledge about the situation who spoke on the condition they not be identified because of the ongoing legal proceedings.

USC didn't directly answer questions about the computers or being served with a search warrant or subpoena but referred to a statement issued last week: "The university's priority is to cooperate fully with the investigation of the U.S. attorney's office."

Enfield, Hart and Capko haven't been charged or otherwise implicated in the case.

Two people involved in the case said they expect more college coaches and others involved with grass-roots basketball programs to be charged later this month.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," one of them said.

One former major college coach who retains deep connections in the business said he believes the case could lead to 40 to 50 head and assistant coaches leaving their jobs by the spring.

Already, some coaches at schools not linked to the first round of charges have retained attorneys. A sense of unease permeates the sport during a time usually filled with optimism because the season opens next month.

The 21/2-page subpoena issued to Oklahoma State, obtained by The Times through a public records request, is believed to be virtually identical to those sent to the three other schools and offers the first glimpse at which records the government is seeking from schools involved in the scandal.

Signed by Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of NewYork, it seeks material in six categories since Jan. 1, 2014, including records of "actual or potential NCAA rules violations relating to the receipt of money, travel, in-kind benefits, or services."

The subpoena seeks copies of all communications the Oklahoma State coaching staff or athletic department had with Christian Dawkins, a former sports agent who was trying to start his own firm, and with financial advisors Martin Blazer and Munish Sood, as well as with parents of any current member of the school's basketball team.

Dawkins and Sood are among the 10 defendants in the case.

The government also demanded the personnel file for Lamont Evans, the Oklahoma State assistant coach fired shortly after being charged, plus various NCAA documents and communication related to financial aid for all current members of the basketball team.

The scope of material sought by the subpoena is broad: "This Subpoena applies to any responsive documents wherever they may be found, including any of personal electronic devices, including any cellular phone or other telephone, pager, tablet, laptop computer, desktop computer, personal email, cloud storage, messaging or social media accounts used by employees or members of Oklahoma State University to conduct Oklahoma State University business."

The request extends to "papers, notepads, notebooks, diaries, or calendars."

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The subpoena orders the school to produce the records, preferably in electronic format, to FBI Special Agent John Vourderis by Tuesday.

Representatives for Arizona and Auburn didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Five of the men charged — Bland, Arizona's Book Richardson, Auburn's Chuck Person, Adidas employee Merl Code and clothing manufacturer Rashan Michel — made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in New York on Tuesday.

Oklahoma State's Evans is scheduled to appear Thursday.

The brief hearing was a formality. Bland, two weeks after his arrest by the FBI in Tampa, Fla., was released on $100,000 bond and is limited to travel in the Los Angeles area and New York. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9. The defendants are expected to be indicted before then, which would eliminate the need for the hearing.

Bland's New York attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, has described the charges as "devastating" and "heartbreaking" for his client. Bland remains on administrative leave from USC. His biography on the team's website, which once touted the coach's elite recruiting, was recently removed.

Prosecutors alleged Bland accepted a $13,000 bribe in July in exchange for directing USC players to Dawkins and Sood. They also accused Bland of facilitating payments totaling $9,000 to the families of two current USC players, an incoming freshman and a rising sophomore.

After his arrest on six charges including conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud, Bland told the U.S. Marshals Service that he makes $300,000 a year at USC.

The case is already jeopardizing jobs. Though no one from Louisville has been charged, the school placed head coach Rick Pitino on unpaid leave last month in connection with the matter and put two assistant coaches on paid leave last week.

Steven A. Haney, the Michigan-based attorney for Dawkins, declined to comment on specific allegations, but said, "I certainly question criminalizing the alleged conduct to the degree contained in the complaint."

Haney added in a statement: "One should not be prematurely condemned based on speculation, accusations and misinformation. There is a story to tell here and that story is decades long."

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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