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Federal grand jury indicts USC assistant Tony Bland in college basketball bribery case

Tony Bland, Steve Fisher
Tony Bland, left, talks during basketball practice in Columbus, A federal grand jury in New York indicted USC associate head coach Tony Bland on Tuesday in the bribery and corruption case shaking college basketball, according to court documents.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

A federal grand jury in New York indicted USC associate head coach Tony Bland on Tuesday in the bribery and corruption case shaking college basketball, according to court documents.

Bland has been on administrative leave from USC since he was among 10 men arrested and charged in September in connection with the investigation.

The 40-page indictment also includes Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson, Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, would-be sports agent Christian Dawkins and Adidas employee Merl Code. Auburn assistant Chuck Person and clothier Rashan Michel were named in a separate indictment Tuesday.

Two other men initially charged — financial adviser Munish Sood and Florida youth coach Brad Augustine — weren’t indicted, two people knowledgeable about the case said on the condition they not be identified because the documents had not been made public.

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Attorneys for Sood and Augustine were granted a two-week continuance last month in order to negotiate with prosecutors about a possible deal, according to court documents.

It’s unclear if Adidas employee Jim Gatto was indicted.

Prosecutors accused Bland of accepting a $13,000 bribe in July from Dawkins and Sood in exchange for directing USC players to use their services when they started their professional careers.

“Bland also confirmed that, by virtue of his position as a coach for the University of Southern California’s basketball team, he exerted significant influence over his athletes in deciding which agents and advisors to retain,” the indictment said of the gathering.

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Bland was also accused of facilitating payments of $4,000 and $5,000 to relatives of two players, identified as Player-8 and Player-9, during a series of late-August meetings in Los Angeles. One player was identified as on the current USC roster; the other a “rising freshman”, or recruit.

The indictment didn’t include new details about any of the allegations involving Bland.

The coach faces four charges, two fewer than in the original complaint. They include conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud.

“We strongly believe that the conduct charged in the indictment does not rise to a crime and that Tony Bland, a hardworking and well-regarded assistant coach, is being scapegoated for all the ills of college basketball, all due to an alleged $13,000 payment,” Bland’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said in a statement to The Times. “No multimillionaire head coach was charged, or any multibillion dollar sneaker company after years of investigation. It’s not fair and anyone who knows anything about college basketball knows this to be true.”

A USC spokesman declined comment on the indictments.

The indictment accused Bland of participating in a “scheme to defraud” USC “by facilitating and concealing bribe payments to prospective and current student-athletes …” It added that alleged payments caused the school to “provide or agree to provide athletic scholarships to student-athletes who, in truth and in fact, were ineligible to compete as a result of the bribe payments.”

Craig Mordock, representing Richardson, struck a similar tone to other defense attorneys involved in the case.

“He is not guilty of the charges and we look forward to telling our story in court,” Mordock said.

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Prosecutors faced a Thursday deadline to secure indictments, regarded as a formality as the case moves forward, or conduct preliminary hearings.

Times staff writer Zach Helfand contributed to this article.

nathan.fenno@latimes.com

Twitter: @nathanfenno


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