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Christian Dawkins, linked to college basketball inquiry, accused of recruiting players for rival agent

Men's College Basketball

One of the men arrested last week in the FBI's undercover sting operation into college basketball corruption was at the center of a contentious federal lawsuit between a financial adviser and one of the NBA's top agents.

Christian Dawkins, who was accused with three others of arranging for payments of $250,000 to three high school players to sign with Adidas-sponsored schools, was also accused of recruiting college players for one prominent agent while he still had an employment agreement with another agent.

Kurt Schoeppler of International Management Advisors, who is one of Vince Carter's current agents and LeBron James' former financial adviser, sued Andy Miller's ASM Sports in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in May 2016, according to a complaint obtained by ESPN.

FBI agents raided Miller's New Jersey-based office Tuesday as part of its investigation into bribes and other corruption in college basketball, sources told ESPN last week. Phone lines to the ASM office were disconnected, and employees were told not to come to work.

In the complaint against ASM and Miller, IMA's attorneys wrote that the firm had hired Dawkins as executive director of sports and entertainment in April 2014. According to an employment agreement obtained by ESPN, Dawkins was paid an annual salary of $50,000 and IMA agreed to pay his expenses incurred while recruiting NBA draft prospects.

The lawsuit said that, toward the end of 2014, "Schoeppler began hearing rumors that Dawkins was steering prospects toward ASM Sports rather than IMA for agent representation." Schoeppler and Miller spoke on the phone about Dawkins in mid-December 2014, according to the complaint, and Schoeppler advised Miller that Dawkins was his employee and "was subject to a noncompete provision that specifically named ASM Sports as a company for which Dawkins could not work within the one-year noncompetition period."

By January 2015, according to the complaint, "It became apparent that Dawkins was actually representing ASM's interests, not IMA's, when interacting with prospects, and he could no longer be trusted. ... Thus, IMA began discussions with Dawkins to terminate his employment."

Schoeppler declined comment when he was reached by ESPN on Monday. Miller didn't return several phone calls from ESPN in the past week.

During negotiations to end Dawkins' employment, the lawsuit said, IMA calculated that Dawkins owed the firm $61,700 for improper expenditures. IMA and Dawkins agreed that he would sign a promissory note to repay the money, and IMA agreed to release him from certain noncompetition clauses in his contract.

Dawkins signed the termination agreement on Feb. 24, 2015, but never signed the promissory note, which was one of IMA's conditions for allowing him to join Miller's firm, the lawsuit said.

Miller and Schoeppler settled their lawsuit on Sept. 15, 2016, according to court records. Terms of the settlement were undisclosed.

IMA also alleged that Dawkins "stole the credit card number for an American Express card belonging to IMA issued to Elfrid Payton, a client of IMA." Payton, who played at Louisiana-Lafayette from 2011 to 2014, was the No. 10 pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2014 NBA draft. He was traded to the Orlando Magic on draft night.

In a June 2, 2016, letter to Payton, which was obtained by ESPN, Dawkins wrote that he never "stole your American Express card number, or any other personal financial information. The information was provided to me so that I could assist you and your family in making various travel and other arrangements."

An investigation by the National Basketball Players Association earlier this year discovered that Dawkins used Payton's credit card to charge more $42,000 in Uber rides between 2015 and 2016 and that Payton authorized only a few trips. ASM fired Dawkins in May, according to published reports.

Elfrid Payton Sr., the player's father, told ESPN on Monday that IMA reimbursed his son for the credit card charges and that Dawkins didn't have permission to use the card. He said he was introduced to Dawkins by a third party and advised his son to use him as a financial planner.

"Kurt had this business, but he didn't know anything about the NBA," Payton Sr. said. "Christian was on the financial side when we met him. Kurt is a reputable guy. He didn't know Christian was doing this."

The complaint noted that Dawkins "spent a considerable amount of time developing a relationship with LSU's Jarell Martin, Clemson's KJ McDaniels and other prospects throughout 2014 and early 2015" on behalf of IMA.

Shortly after Dawkins joined Miller's firm, according to the lawsuit, ASM signed Martin and McDaniels as clients. Martin, who played at LSU from 2013 to 2015, was a first-round pick (No. 25) by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2015 NBA draft. McDaniels, who played at Clemson from 2011 to 2014, was a second-round pick (No. 32) by the 76ers in 2014.

As part of the FBI investigation, Dawkins, from Saginaw, Michigan, is charged with three counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering conspiracy, along with James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for Adidas; Merl Code, another Adidas employee; Munish Sood, a financial planner; and Jonathan Brad Augustine, president of The League Initiative and program director of the Adidas-sponsored 1 Family AAU program in Florida.

According to the U.S. attorney's complaint, Gatto, Code, Dawkins and Sood worked together to funnel $100,000 to an unnamed high school player in early June, and Dawkins told the others that he did so at the request of a Louisville coach. "Player-10," who is described in the complaint as a top recruit, is believed to be Brian Bowen of La Porte, Indiana, a five-star guard/forward who signed with Louisville on June 5.

The complaint said another high school player was paid to sign with the Cardinals and that Dawkins paid the money by funneling it through Augustine.

Dawkins, who is the son of Cleveland State assistant coach Lou Dawkins, was the director of operations for a Saginaw-based AAU team, Dorian's Pride, which included Bowen and former Louisville player Jaylen Johnson on its roster. Former Kansas star and Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson and former Utah star and Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma also played on the team.

The allegations surrounding Bowen's recruitment led to longtime basketball coach Rick Pitino being placed on unpaid administrative leave and athletic director Tom Jurich being put on paid administrative leave. Bowen was placed on indefinite suspension.

On Monday, Louisville interim president Greg Postel said the university would re-evaluate a 10-year, $160 million extension of its apparel agreement with Adidas, which paid Pitino $2.25 million directly last year.

Pitino is not named in the federal complaint, but ABC News reported Thursday that he is the "Coach-2," alleged to have played a role in funneling $100,000 to Bowen. Pitino told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Sunday night that he has "[zero] to do with any of it."

The FBI alleged that Gatto, Code, Dawkins and Augustine attempted to broker a deal to send another high school player to Miami, an Adidas-sponsored school, for $150,000. According to the complaint, "the payments from [Adidas] to Player-12 were allegedly requested specifically by a coach at [Miami] (Coach-3), who allegedly called Gatto directly and who, according to Dawkins, Code, and Augustine, 'knows everything' and, in particular, 'knows something's gotta happen for' Player-12 to commit to attending University-7."

ESPN reported last week that multiple clients have severed ties with Miller, one of the NBA's most prominent agents, and another has filed a $13.5 million arbitration claim, alleging he was defrauded, according to league sources.

LA Clippers center Willie Reed filed the claim in part because of Dawkins. Reed alleges that even after Miller fired Dawkins for the improper use of Payton's credit card, Dawkins remained the primary ASM representative for Reed and other players, including Indiana Pacers rookie Edmond Sumner.

Justin Patton of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sumner both fired Miller since the FBI investigation became public, sources told ESPN.

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