NEW YORK — Jurors in a federal criminal trial involving college basketball corruption on Monday heard a wiretap recording of a telephone call between defendant Christian Dawkins and business partner Munish Sood, in which Dawkins alleged that Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller “fronted” a deal to ensure the Wildcats signed former star center Deandre Ayton.
During the telephone call, which FBI wiretaps intercepted on June 2, 2017, Dawkins and Sood discussed how much it was going to cost for them to sign Ayton as a client in their new sports management company once he turned pro.
Sood testified on Monday that he and Dawkins were already paying then-Arizona associate head coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson to influence Wildcats players and recruits to sign with their firm.
“[Richardson] already made it clear you’re gonna get, or we’re gonna get, the No. 1 pick next year, assuming he’s No. 1,” Sood said during the call.
“It’s going to be more money than what they, what Book said, I mean because I talked to Sean,” Dawkins told Sood. “Sean’s the one that fronted that deal. So it’s going to be some money, but I mean we’ll figure that out.”
ESPN reported in February 2018 that FBI wiretaps intercepted a call between Dawkins and Miller, in which the Arizona coach discussed a $100,000 payment that secured Ayton’s commitment to the Wildcats. At the time, Miller disputed the report and denied ever paying a recruit to sign with Arizona.
Last week, federal prosecutors played a surveillance recording of a meeting on June 6, 2017, in which Dawkins — who is on trial for having allegedly bribed college coaches — talks about Ayton and says Miller told him, “I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.”
Former financial adviser Marty Blazer, a cooperating witness for the government, was present at the June 2017 meeting and testified last week that the reference was about Miller “taking care” of payments for Ayton.
Ayton, a 7-foot-1 center from the Bahamas, spent one season at Arizona before the Phoenix Suns selected him No. 1 overall in the 2018 NBA draft.
Sood, who pleaded guilty to three felony counts related to the case, testified that Richardson accepted a $5,000 bribe during an initial meeting in New York on June 20, 2017. In return, Richardson promised to steer current and future Arizona players, including Ayton, Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier, to Dawkins’ company.
“You’re going to get Rawle Alkins, he’s going to be a first-rounder,” Richardson told Sood and others during the meeting at a New York hotel. “Allonzo Trier, you should get him. Deandre Ayton, we’re working on him.”
At one point during the recording, Richardson told Sood and the undercover FBI agents that Dawkins told him, “I wish I was a pimp and you were a prostitute. You’d make millions for me.” Richardson said Dawkins also ridiculed him for using his own money to pay recruits.
“You make a quarter of a million dollars a year and you’re broke,” Dawkins told Richardson.
In July 2017, Richardson asked for an additional $15,000 from Dawkins and Sood to give to the mother of 2018 recruit Jahvon Quinerly of Hackensack, New Jersey. Richardson said he planned to make three payments of $5,000 each and would also pay her $10,000 of his own money.
“So Mom is like, ‘How’s this gonna work? I wanna move to Tucson,'” Richardson told Sood and an undercover FBI agent during a July 20, 2017, meeting at Sood’s office in Princeton, New Jersey. “So I said, ‘Look, you don’t want to move to Tucson. It’s a nice vacation spot. It’s hot.
“‘This is what I’ll do. This is what I can do for you to put you in a situation to move to Tucson. … I don’t want the NCAA [expletive] with us. You should take two or three more visits and then shut it down. And then as soon as you do that, you commit.”
Quinerly, the No. 7 point guard prospect in the Class of 2018 according to ESPN Recruiting, committed to Arizona over Villanova in August 2017.
After Richardson was among 10 men arrested by the FBI in September 2017, Quinerly decommitted and played at Villanova this past season. He announced in April that he is transferring to another school.
Richardson also said during the recording that he was making $2,000 monthly payments to Rodney Labossiere, Alkins’ cousin, who was living with him in Tucson.
“His cousin moved to Tucson, which I’m highly against,” Richardson said. “I never want the parents or anyone to move there. I’ll give you two grand a month to make sure it works. But he brought him, his wife and his child. Wrong move.”
During one of the recordings, Richardson also told the undercover FBI agents that LSU coach Will Wade attempted to hire him. At the time, Arizona and LSU were involved in a recruiting war for forward Nazreon Reid of Asbury Park, New Jersey.
According to Richardson, Wade told him, “Look, there’s a deal in place. I got $300,000 for him.”
Richardson said he responded, “S—, give me half and I’ll make sure the kid goes there.”