Witness at NCAA trial says he paid football recruits
NEW YORK (AP) — A key prosecution witness at a trial highlighting corruption in college basketball testified for a second day Wednesday about money he paid to college football players to secure them as clients as he described how vulnerable young athletes become prey for vulture-like agents and managers.
Testimony by Louis Martin Blazer also presented an increasingly sinister angle on bribes paid to college basketball coaches, suggesting that the practice was more widespread than previously described in Manhattan federal court.
Blazer, 49, answered questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone in the trial of aspiring agent Christian Dawkins and former amateur coach Merl Code. Three former assistant basketball coaches set to stand trial with them recently pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
On Tuesday, the trial’s first day, Blazer testified that he paid football players from $100 to $3,000 at schools including Pittsburgh, Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Northwestern, North Carolina and Alabama.
“The purpose was to build a relationship with them and secure the possibility that they were going to hire me as their financial adviser when they turned pro,” said Blazer, a financial and investment adviser who has pleaded guilty to charges and is testifying in hopes for leniency.
Blazer said he answered the request of a Penn State coach by giving a $10,000 check to the father of a first-round draft pick in the 2009 NFL draft. The money was paid back. He said he also paid a North Carolina player who was drafted by the New York Giants.
“I was later to find out that I wasn’t the only person paying these guys,” he said. “There were other financial advisers and other agents paying them as well.”
Blazer, a onetime financial adviser to several professional athletes including NFL players, began cooperating with authorities after he was caught squandering millions of dollars from clients to spend on film and music projects.
On Wednesday, Blazer testified that his experience at securing football players as clients served him well in targeting basketball players.
“Timing is everything,” he said. “If a family member asks you to get something and you didn’t do it, that relationship could be lost. ... If you don’t take advantage of what somebody’s asking, they’re just going to get it from somebody else.”
As a prosecutor played audio and video recorded meetings in court, Blazer analyzed them, including one in which the participants spoke of how compromised college basketball coaches were once they accepted cash.
“You have a ton of leverage over a college coach,” Blazer said. “They could get fired.”
Prosecutors played one recorded conversation in which former assistant basketball coach Lamont Evans, who has coached at South Carolina and Oklahoma State, complained to Blazer that he hadn’t been paid his full $2,500 monthly fee.
Boone asked Blazer what Evans meant when he told him that if he wasn’t fully paid, he could “get it back from somebody else.”
Blazer said Evans meant “he could easily find another financial adviser, business adviser, to step in and take our place.”
Then Evans was heard on the tape bragging that he’d keep competitors out of the way if he was properly compensated.
“Anybody else that comes along, I’m going to bury them,” Evans said.
Evans has pleaded guilty, along with former assistant basketball coaches Tony Bland at USC, Emanuel “Book” Richardson at Arizona and Chuck Person at Auburn University. They await sentencing. Person had been scheduled for a June trial.
Lawyers for Dawkins and Code say their clients committed no crime.