Ex-Arizona Coach Emanuel Richardson Pleads Guilty in NCAA Scandal

(Bloomberg) -- A former assistant basketball coach at the University of Arizona admitted that he accepted thousands of dollars in bribes to steer prized recruits to an agent, handing prosecutors another victory in a wide-ranging crackdown on criminal influence in the sport.

Emanuel “Book” Richardson, 46, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in New York on Tuesday. His voice shaking, Richardson said he took $20,000 at meetings in New York and New Jersey during the summer of 2017 with agent Christian Dawkins and an undercover FBI agent to push Arizona players to sign with Dawkins. Under an agreement with federal prosecutors, he agreed to forfeit the $20,000 and faces 18 to 24 months in prison when he’s sentenced in April.

Richardson, who served as an assistant to Arizona head coach Sean Miller from 2009 until he was fired in January 2018, was one of 10 people charged in September 2017 with participating in schemes to direct top recruits to powerhouse schools, clothing contracts and financial advisory deals. The scandal rocked intercollegiate sports after a three-year Federal Bureau of Investigation probe discovered the payoffs.

Richardson told U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in Manhattan that he met with Dawkins and the undercover agent in June 2017, when he accepted a $5,000 bribe, and in July 2017, when he accepted a $15,000 bribe.

“I knew this conduct was wrong,” Richardson said in court.

‘Helped Himself’

Richardson “abused his position as a mentor and coach to student-athletes for his own personal gain,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “Richardson, entrusted to help players develop as athletes and young men, instead helped himself to the cash offered by unscrupulous agents and financial advisers.”

In one conversation with the FBI agent that was recorded by investigators, Richardson said he used to let players talk to “three or four guys” but compared that to letting them visit a BMW dealer, a Mercedes-Benz dealer and a Porsche dealer, prosecutors said. “They like them all,” Richardson said on the wiretap, according to prosecutors. “You have to pick for them.”

Dawkins, former Adidas AG executive James Gatto and consultant Merl Code were convicted in October of funneling illicit payments to relatives of prospects and concealing them. They are scheduled to be sentenced in March. Three others -- financial adviser Munish Sood, former Adidas consultant Thomas "T.J." Gassnola and former University of Southern California assistant coach Tony Bland -- have pleaded guilty.

Richardson, Code, Dawkins and former Oklahoma State University assistant coach Lamont Evans had been scheduled to go on trial in April. Chuck Person, a former National Basketball Association star and associate head coach at Auburn University, and Rashan Michel, an owner of an apparel company in Atlanta, are set for a June trial.

The case is U.S. v Evans, 17-cr-684, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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