The FBI Took Down College Basketball Coaches With the Help of This Crooked Business Manager

Assistant coach Chuck Person (left) shakes hands with a Denver Nuggets player during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Person was charged with bribery and conspiracy on September 26, 2017 in case related to corruption in college basketball. Harry How/Getty Images

Meet the business manager for professional athletes who flipped and became a federal mole in the bribery scandal that is shaking college basketball.

A total of 10 men, including four college basketball coaches, an ex-NBA referee and a top businessman at Adidas, were charged Tuesday with taking part in a bribery scheme that allegedly funneled high-profile high school basketball players to certain colleges and then to specific financial advisers and business managers once they reached the NBA.

Court papers don't identify the "cooperating witness for the government," but they do say he ran a business management firm and that he settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges he violated securities laws on or about May 6, 2016.

"He became a cooperating witness after being charged by the SEC," acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said Tuesday. "He had in the past engaged in this type of conduct and [he] said, 'I'm aware of people who are willing to do this' and he was inserted."

Those dots all connect to Louis Martin Blazer III, a Pittsburgh financial adviser who on May 6, 2016—the same date specified in the criminal complaints—settled SEC charges that he took $2.35 million from the accounts of professional athletes without permission so he could invest in movies called Mafia the Movie and Sibling.

"In one instance, Blazer actually pitched the movie project to an athlete as an investment opportunity, but that client expressly refused to make the investment," stated a SEC press release. "Blazer allegedly took $550,000 from the client's account anyway and invested the money in the film projects."

Blazer did not respond to a call for comment. ESPN and CBS Sports also reported Blazer was the cooperating witness, but federal prosecutors have not named him.

Once the business manager began cooperating with law enforcement, he seems to have become the key to the investigation. He paid about $91,500 in bribes to Chuck Person, an assistant coach at Auburn University, over a 10-month period, in exchange for the coach encouraging NBA-bound players on the Auburn team to retain the business manager's services, according to the criminal complaint against Person.

The business manager secretly recorded his meeting with Person and one of his players at a New York City hotel in December, when Auburn was in town to play Boston College at Madison Square Garden. At the meeting, Person introduced the business manager to the player and was recorded telling the player, "This is a violation of rules, but this how the NBA players get it done, they get early relationships…they form trust, you get to know [the business manager]."

When the player stepped away from the meeting, the business manager took $15,000 in cash given to him by his law enforcement handlers and slipped it to Person.

The same business manager—the "cooperating witness"—also appears in the complaint against James Gatto, a sports marketing executive at Adidas, and others associated with the company. He also shows up, again identified only as a cooperating witness, in the complaint against assistant or associate basketball coaches at Oklahoma State University, Arizona and the University of Southern California.

The business manager recorded a meeting with Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans at a Miami restaurant on August 4, 2016, in which the men discussed which players Evans could steer to the business manager. "Every guy I recruit and get is my personal kid.… The 7'1" kid coming in next year, you guys [are] going to get him," Evans told the business manager, according to the criminal complaint.

"During the meeting, [the business manager] provided Evans with an envelope containing $1,000 in cash," the complaint states. The coaches and businessmen who the businessman helped investigate face decades in prison if convicted.