James Gatto, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins all sentenced to prison time in first basketball fraud trial

NEW YORK — Former Adidas executive James Gatto was sentenced to nine months in prison Tuesday for his role in college basketball’s federal fraud scandal.

Co-defendants Merl Code, an Adidas consultant, and basketball middleman Christian Dawkins, each received six months.

All three were found guilty on conspiracy and fraud charges in October after a three-week jury trial. The sentences were handed down by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in the Southern District of New York.

Gatto, 48, received a longer sentence due to additional convictions from his role as the boss of what prosecutors called an orchestrated effort to defraud college basketball teams.

All three were part of a plan to provide cash and other gifts to the families of top NBA prospects in order to either steer them to Adidas-sponsored schools or, once they turned professional, preferred agents and financial planners.

Those actions violate NCAA rules.

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Men found guilty in college basketball fraud scandal
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Men found guilty in college basketball fraud scandal
FILE - At left, in an Oct. 1, 2018, file photo, Christian Dawkins arrives at federal court in New York. At center, in an Oct. 24, 2018, file photo, former amateur basketball league director Merl Code leaves federal court in New York. At right, in an Oct. 18, 2018, file photo, former Adidas executive James Gatto arrives at federal court in New York. Federal prosecutors have recommended multiyear prison sentences for three men convicted of fraud for channeling secret payments to the families of top-tier basketball recruits to influence where the players went to school. Former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager Christian Dawkins and amateur league director Merl Code were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October for funneling recruits to Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State. On Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York recommended a sentence of 46 to 57 months for Gatto and 30 to 37 months in prison for Code and Dawkins. They are scheduled to be sentenced next week. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2018, file photo, former Adidas executive James Gatto arrives at federal court in New York. Gatto and two co-defendants were convicted, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, of committing fraud by paying families of NCAA college basketball prospects with cash so the prospects would attend colleges sponsored by Adidas. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Former Adidas executive James Gatto arrives to court for sentencing in New York, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Federal prosecutors have recommended multi-year prison sentences for Gatto and two other men convicted of fraud for channeling secret payments to the families of top-tier basketball recruits to influence where the players went to school. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Former Adidas executive James Gatto and his wife Rachel Gatto arrives to court in New York, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Federal prosecutors have recommended multi-year prison sentences for Gatto and two other men convicted of fraud for channeling secret payments to the families of top-tier basketball recruits to influence where the players went to school. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
James Gatto (R), Adidas director of global sports marketing, exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, following an appearance for bribery and fraud charges in connection with college basketball recruiting, in New York City, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
James Gatto (R), Adidas director of global sports marketing, exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, following an appearance for bribery and fraud charges in connection with college basketball recruiting, in New York, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
James Gatto (R), Adidas director of global sports marketing, exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, following an appearance for bribery and fraud charges in connection with college basketball recruiting, in New York, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
James Gatto, Adidas director of global sports marketing, exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, following an appearance for bribery and fraud charges in connection with college basketball recruiting, in New York, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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The government was able to convince the jury that by making the players ineligible, Gatto, Code and Dawkins had defrauded the schools by having them unwittingly give scholarships to athletes that put the basketball programs at risk of NCAA sanctions.

The schools involved in the first trial were North Carolina State, Louisville and Kansas.

Code and Dawkins are also scheduled to stand trial in April on additional charges of bribery for giving money to assistant coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State and Southern California so they might direct NBA prospects to preferred agents and financial planners.

Each of the former college assistant coaches involved have reached plea deals with the government.

The NCAA says it is aggressively investigating all evidence revealed at the first trial and will act upon additional allegations stemming from the next trial.

A third trial, involving former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person, is scheduled for later this year.

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