NEW YORK — On July 13, 2017, Munish Sood got into his car and drove to meet Brian Bowen Sr., in a parking lot in northern New Jersey. Sood testified that he brought an envelope containing $19,400 in cash.
Sood, a financial planner based in Princeton, New Jersey, said he had been given the money the day before by Jeff DeAngelo, a man he thought was working with Adidas to help funnel basketball superprospect Brian Bowen to Louisville, an Adidas-sponsored school.
DeAngelo was actually an FBI agent, but Sood would not learn that fact until Sept. 26, 2017 — the day he was arrested in the college basketball bribery scandal that saw nine other men arrested, including former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson.
Richardson doesn’t go on trial until April but is likely to be mentioned at length during this separate but related trial. Former Wildcat Rawle Alkins was mentioned in court Wednesday, and prosecutors say they expect to reference UA coach Sean Miller, former associate head coach Joe Pasternack and former star Deandre Ayton in the coming weeks.
Sood, now a cooperating witness for the prosecution, said Wednesday he was “nervous” in the car. “I was driving alone with almost $20,000,” he said.
Sood met Bowen Sr., who had flown to LaGuardia Airport from Louisville, and gave him a sandwich for lunch. That’s not all he gave the father of the talented basketball player who also visited Arizona both officially and unofficially.
“I gave him the envelope with the money, and he invited me to come to Louisville and watch his son play and meet the family,” said Sood, now 46.
Sood said he believed the payment would be the first of four given to Bowen Sr. He had been led to believe that Merl Code, then an Adidas consultant, and Adidas would make the remaining three payments to Bowen Sr., who had allegedly been promised $100,000 in total in exchange for his son attending Louisville.
“It was clean,” Sood said in court of paying Bowen Sr. in cash.
Bowen Sr. is expected to be the government’s second witness Thursday. He has cut a deal with the government and is immune from prosecution.
Code, former Adidas executive Jim Gatto and would-be sports agent Christian Dawkins are all being tried on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
More names trickled out in court Wednesday as the federal government presented its case.
The prosecution showed jurors an email from Dawkins with the heading, “Here is a list of guys I am actively involved with.” The list included Alkins and many others, including former USC players De’Anthony Melton and Chimezie Metu. USC assistant coach Tony Bland was arrested along with Richardson and others last September.
It was not explained what Dawkins meant by “actively involved with,” and there was no evidence introduced that proved he had provided money to any of the players listed except for Bowen and former Alabama standout Collin Sexton.
The prosecution also showed an April 2016 email from Dawkins to Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh-based financial planner, detailing payments they made or planned to make to handlers for high-profile players. The list included Utah’s Kyle Kuzma, Washington’s Markelle Fultz, Florida State’s Malik Beasley and Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead. Kuzma, Fultz and Beasley are all currently playing in the NBA.
Sood said he gave Fultz’s trainer, Keith Williams, a $30,000 loan because he was “hoping to get an opportunity to work with Markelle and his team.” Fultz was playing at Washington at the time.
Sood did not specify how much money was given to Kuzma’s handler, only that it occurred while Kuzma was playing for the Utes.
Dawkins’ email stated that he “needed to pay” Beasley’s trainer an additional $30,000 because the trainer “helped me get involved with the kid, and he also has his hands on Wendell Carter, who could be the #1 pick in two years so it would be a 2 for 1.” Carter attended Duke for one season and is now with the Chicago Bulls.
The prosecution also provided a text from Dawkins to Sood listing payments Dawkins claimed he made to several other players.
“Of the $19,000 I gave 5K to Collin Sexton, 2K to Bowen, 500 to Bazley, 350 to Blossingame (sic),” the text read in part.
Darius Bazley committed to Syracuse but did not enroll. Jaron Blossomgame played collegiately at Clemson.
Jurors also saw an FBI videotape of Code meeting with Dawkins, Sood, DeAngelo and Blazer. In it, Code shared his method for steering talented players like Bowen to Adidas-sponsored schools.
“That’s the ultimate objective,” Code said on the videotape. “You’re trying to push those kids to your affiliated schools. For instance, Indiana, Kansas, Arizona State, Miami are all Adidas schools. So if I could have those kids in my umbrella at the grassroots level and I can funnel those kids to my schools, I win at the grassroots level, my colleges win, and then hopefully I can sign them as pros. That’s a quick synopsis of how it works.”
The payments made by Dawkins and Sood may have violated NCAA rules, but getting a criminal conviction will be tougher. The prosecution must prove there was intent to defraud the four Adidas schools, defense attorneys have told jurors.
Bowen, the highest-profile player mentioned so far in the case, never played at Louisville. The drama surrounding his recruitment and the FBI sting led to the firing of former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has maintained he had no knowledge of the payments to the recruit’s father.
Asked by the prosecution on Wednesday if he believed Pitino was aware of the payments, Sood hedged.
“I believe that he knew something,” Sood said, “but not everything.”