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Kansas, N.C. State linked to federal probe of college basketball

Federal prosecutors alleged Tuesday that families of top recruits at Kansas and North Carolina State received payments from an Adidas employee in exchange for the players attending the schools, as the college basketball bribery and corruption probe continued to grow.

A superseding indictment filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York charged Adidas employee Jim Gatto with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Merl Code, another Adidas employee, and would-be agent Christian Dawkins are also named in the indictment, but aren’t involved in the new charges.

In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan on Tuesday, federal prosecutors said the indictment “adds no additional defendants or legal theories but expands the scope of the conspiracy” to “defraud the victim-universities.”

Eight men — including Code, Dawkins and Gatto — were indicted by a federal grand jury in November in three cases linked to Arizona, Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Oklahoma State and USC. All have pleaded not guilty.

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Gatto’s attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“The new allegations are not suggestive of any wrongdoing by Christian Dawkins who maintains his innocence of any criminal wrongdoing,” his attorney Steve Haney said in an email. “More charges will not put any pressure on us to do anything but continue to fight.”

Andrew Mathias, an attorney for Code, said his client will plead not guilty again and plans to “meet these charges head-on.”

The new allegations center around Gatto and alleged payments to families of two players.

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The indictment said that the Kansas player’s mother received at least $90,000 from Gatto from October 2016 to November 2017. In exchange, the player attended Kansas, which has an athletic apparel sponsorship deal with Adidas, and planned to sign an endorsement deal with the company as a professional.

Gatto funneled a series of payments to the mother through an AAU team, according to the indictment, and concealed them through fake invoices. The invoice for a $50,000 payment on Oct. 21, 2016, described it as a “Basketball Team Tournaments Fee.”

In a statement, a Kansas spokesman said: “The indictment does not suggest any wrongdoing by the university, its coaches or its staff.”

The indictment alleged Gatto also directed $40,000 to the parent of an North Carolina State recruit in October 2015 to ensure the player attended the school. A coach at the school, identified in the indictment as Coach-4, served as a go-between and delivered the money.

“The payment described above was designed to be concealed, including from the NCAA and officials at North Carolina State University, in order for the scheme to succeed and for the student-athlete to receive an athletic scholarship from North Carolina State University,” the indictment said.

It added that “one or more coaches” at N.C. State “made, intended to make, or caused, or intended to cause others to make false certifications to North Carolina State University about the existence of the payments and known violations of NCAA rules.”

Mark Gottfried, hired in March to coach Cal State Northridge, was North Carolina State’s coach at the time of the alleged payment. A subpoena from a federal grand jury in New York served this year included a request for the personnel files of Gottfried and assistant Orlando Early.

A Northridge spokesman did not return a request for comment. The school previously said there were no “red flags” related to Gottfried and the federal investigation.

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nathan.fenno@latimes.com

Follow Nathan Fenno on Twitter @nathanfenno


UPDATES:

6:44 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from a Kansas spokesman and attorneys for Merl Code and Christian Dawkins.

This article was originally published at 4:10 p.m.


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