Tony Bland said he was in on the plan. He would help facilitate money to relatives of two USC basketball players, who would then be referred to the services of Christian Dawkins, a would-be sports agent, and Munish Sood, a financial adviser.
But, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York in September, Bland had a catch: He didn’t want to “touch” the money.
“I want it all to go through you,” Bland said to Dawkins over the phone on the morning of Aug. 31, according to the document.
Bland, the associate men’s basketball coach at USC, was one of 10 people arrested in September for allegedly taking part in a corruption ring that involved undercover FBI agents and promises to funnel money to USC players and to direct players to agents.
On Tuesday, he was formally indicted on charges that involved conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud. He faces four charges in total.
But the complaint describes Bland’s motives in more detail, zeroing in on Aug. 31, when Bland met with Dawkins, Sood and an undercover FBI agent at a restaurant on the USC campus. During the meeting, which was recorded by the agent, Bland talked about his approach to influencing players such as “Player-8,” a USC player or recruit who has not been identified in court filings.
“Some guys, like [Player-8], I can say, this is what you’re doing, but other guys, the sooner you get in, you gotta, kind of push them that way and before it’s too late, it’s what they’re doing,” Bland said, according to the complaint.
Bland later boasted about his ability to “get the players” to accept bribes.
“I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys,” he said.
According to the document, Bland admitted to previously being presented with opportunities to receive payments from advisers or agents, but he trusted Dawkins.
“Everything you’re saying is exactly what I’m looking for,” Bland said, referring to Dawkins. “It’s not been this clean from a guy that I trust.”
After the meeting, the complaint said that Dawkins and Sood went to a hotel in Los Angeles and met with the relative of “Player-9,” another USC player or recruit to whom Bland allegedly facilitated money. Bland had arranged the meeting, according to the document, and had arranged for $5,000 to be given to the unnamed player’s family. In all, Bland is accused of funneling $9,000 to the families of “Player-8” and “Player-9.”
During the meeting, Dawkins and the relative discussed “the plan,” which was for the player to enter the upcoming NBA Draft.
Bland also negotiated how much he would be paid to take part in the scheme, according to the complaint. On July 26, Dawkins told an undercover agent that Bland wanted to be paid $6,000, but before Bland met with Dawkins, the agent and a cooperating witness at a Las Vegas hotel room three days later, Dawkins told the agent that Bland, in fact, wanted $13,000.
It was at this meeting that Bland told Dawkins he had “heavy influence” over USC basketball players and could funnel players to Dawkins as clients, the document said. Following the meeting, in exchange for the money, Bland arranged for Dawkins and Sood to meet with family members of “Player-8” and “Player-9,” according to the complaint, and assured them that the players would sign with their company.
Bland, who has been an assistant coach since 2014, is currently on administrative leave. USC hired Louis Freeh, a former FBI director, to conduct an internal investigation.
The team begins its season on Friday and is ranked 10th nationally in the AP poll, its highest preseason ranking since the 1974-75 season.
The complaint stated that around July 7, Dawkins spoke over the phone with Merl Code, an Adidas executive also arrested in the sting, about which coaches could be convinced to take part in the corruption ring.
“You going to introduce him to Tony Bland,” Dawkins said in the call, referring to a man who would turn out to be an undercover FBI agent.