In a federal grand jury indictment charging three men with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, an N.C. State basketball coach is alleged to have received tens of thousands of dollars he was to deliver to a parent of a Wolfpack basketball recruit.
"Coach-4," as he is called in federal documents, is described as "a coach at North Carolina State University," who would deliver a $40,000 payment from James Gatto, adidas director of marketing, to "Parent-1," the "father of a student-athlete ... who was, at the time, widely regarded as the top high school recruit in the state of North Carolina..."
Neither the recruit nor the coach are named in the federal superseding indictment of former adidas employees Gatto and Merl Code, as well as former ASM sports agency employee Christian Dawkins, that was announced on April 10. The three are charged as a result of the FBI's wide-ranging investigation that has ensnared schools and coaches around the country.
Based on the timing of events, such as when the recruit committed to N.C. State and when he entered the NBA draft, the athlete described in the FBI documents is believed to be Dennis Smith Jr., a point guard who played one season at N.C. State under coach Mark Gottfried from 2016-17 before heading to the NBA draft. "Parent-1" is believed to be Smith's father, Dennis Smith Sr.
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When asked about the FBI's indictment on Wednesday, Smith declined to talk about it but said he was not worried about the situation, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Identifying “Coach-4” isn’t as easy.
Gottfried was N.C. State’s head coach in September, October and December 2015, periods of time spelled out under "Allegations Related to North Carolina State University" portion in the FBI's latest indictment. Orlando Early was an assistant coach at N.C. State from 2011 until he, along with Gottfried, were fired in February 2017. Gottfried and Early were heavily involved in the recruitment of Smith.
Attempts to reach Gottfried and Early have been unsuccessful. When asked Wednesday who "Coach-4" is, N.C. State basketball spokesman Fred Demarest said, via text message, "at the current time I can't comment beyond what we've already said."
On Jan. 17, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is handling the charges stemming from the FBI’s investigation of college basketball, sent N.C. State a subpoena. It sought records, from Jan. 1, 2014 to the present, related to Dennis Smith Jr.’s recruitment.
The January subpoena also sought N.C. State’s personnel records for Gottfried and Early, along with any forms signed by Early regarding student-athlete eligibility and any representations made by Early regarding student-athlete eligibility.
A Yahoo report, published in February, included a copy of an Aug. 29, 2016 email from Dawkins to Andy Miller, a sports agent who had been disassociated from N.C. State in 2012, that stated Dawkins had been in contact with Gottfried and Early. In the email, Dawkins wrote to Miller that Butch Pierre, another N.C. State assistant coach at the time, “never called me back but Gottfried and Orlando Early both called me over the weekend on separate matters.”
The email from Dawkins to Miller does not reveal the nature of the conversation Dawkins had with Gottfried or Early, or why he was waiting for Pierre to call him.
A separate Yahoo report published on the same day in February stated that Smith Jr., is alleged to have received at least $73,500 in loans from ASM, which was run by Miller. The Yahoo report included a Dec. 31, 2015 ASM balance sheet that noted that Smith Jr. had received a loan for $43,500 while he was still in high school at Fayetteville's Trinity Christian.
The FBI's indictment documents released Tuesday state that "as part of the scheme, scheme participants, including among others, JAMES GATTO, a/k/a "Jim," the defendant, CC-3, Parent-1, and one or more coaches at North Carolina State University, made, intended to make, or caused or intended to cause others to make false certifications to North Carolina State University and the NCAA about the existence of the payments and the known violations of NCAA rules."
The government alleges that former adidas employees Gatto and Code, along with former ASM sports agency employee Dawkins, conspired to defraud colleges by funneling money to recruits and hiding that fact from university officials.
Such payments violate the NCAA’s amateurism rules.
N.C. State, Kansas, Louisville and Miami were named in the indictment made public on Tuesday.
In N.C. State’s case, "Coach-4" is alleged to have personal involvement in a payment.
In October 2015, Smith had committed to N.C. State but government records state he was “not happy” with his decision and was considering signing with another school.
In response, the documents allege, Gatto and a co-conspirator — an unnamed adidas consultant — (referred to as CC-3) agreed to give $40,000 to "Coach-4" with the understanding that the coach would deliver the money to Smith’s father to secure Smith’s commitment to N.C. State.
The government alleges that "CC-3" withdrew $40,000 from an account he controlled and delivered the money to "Coach-4" in North Carolina. "Coach-4," the indictment states, represented he would deliver the money to Smith’s father.
Gatto used sham invoices to cause adidas to reimburse CC-3 the $40,000, the indictment alleges.
In December 2015, Dennis Smith Jr. signed financial aid papers with N.C. State. In the financial aid papers, Smith answered "no" when asked "whether in the past year, he 'or any member of [his family] [had] been paid money, borrowed money, or received any benefit of any kind from an athletics booster, sports agent, runner, or financial advisor," according to the FBI's indictment.
The Wolfpack went 15-17 during Smith’s lone season, including a 4-14 record in ACC play. Gottfried and his staff, including Early, were fired by N.C. State in February 2017. They finished out the season, which ended with a 75-61 loss to Clemson in the ACC tournament on March 7, 2017.
Gottfried didn’t coach last season but was hired last month as head coach at Cal State Northridge.
When asked last month by The News & Observer about Gottfried being named in the subpoena, Cal State Northridge released a statement saying, “Compliance was an important issue for us in the search for our next men's basketball coach. The great thing about bringing Mark Gottfried to CSUN is that we had a 20-year track record to review. Coach Gottfried has an excellent compliance record and understands how to build winners the right way. We did our own due diligence and, as both Coach Gottfried and officials at North Carolina State have said, there are no red flags whatsoever."
Through Cal State Northridge, Gottfried last month declined an interview request from The News & Observer.
Early remains out of coaching.
Hired by N.C. State in March 2016 and fired a year later, Pierre worked at Memphis last season as the director of player personnel on head coach Tubby Smith’s staff.
N.C. State released a statement Tuesday night in response to the latest federal grand jury indictments, stating it is fully cooperating with the investigation.
It also said N.C. State's office of general counsel and athletics’ compliance staff in September contacted former basketball coaches asking whether they had any knowledge of or involvement in any activity related to the original FBI indictments released on Sept. 27. No former staff member questioned admitted to having involvement or knowledge.
N.C. State did not say which coaches it questioned.