The key informant in the FBI's college basketball bribery investigation has been cooperating with the NCAA and plans to provide information "of value to the investigations" that he has so far withheld prior to his sentencing, according to a letter Friday from the NCAA addressed to the judge.
Judge Edgardo Ramos is scheduled to rule Thursday on the sentencing of former financial planner Marty Blazer, who pleaded guilty in September 2017 to the five counts against him: securities fraud, aggravated identity theft, making false statements and documents, and two counts of wire fraud.
When Blazer was being investigated for his investment crimes, which included defrauding professional athletes, his self-admitted history of paying college athletes piqued the interest of federal investigators, and he became a cooperating witness -- setting up meetings with coaches and runners, wearing a wire and recording phone calls -- in what became a years-long FBI investigation into bribery in college basketball.
Of the 12 men charged or arrested in connection with the investigations, including four former assistant coaches who pleaded guilty, Blazer is the only one known publicly to be cooperating with the NCAA in its investigation. Last fall, the NCAA tried but failed to get access to unreleased evidence obtained by federal investigators when a federal judge denied the organization's motion to intervene in the case.
At least five Division I programs have received an NCAA notice of allegations related to the federal investigation into college basketball corruption: TCU, Kansas, NC State, Oklahoma State and USC. Sources previously told ESPN that Arizona, Auburn, Creighton, Louisville and LSU were also under scrutiny by NCAA investigators.
Sources told ESPN that in July 2019, NCAA investigators interviewed Blazer in a Pittsburgh hotel room where more than a dozen representatives from schools implicated in the investigation were allowed to listen to the interviews over the phone but were not allowed to ask questions or listen to interviews regarding schools other than their own.
Friday's letter from the NCAA states that Blazer "cooperated in the NCAA's investigation by making himself available for numerous interviews" that assisted the NCAA and the various colleges and also provided "documentary information."
The letter ends by stating that Blazer has agreed to help the NCAA after his Thursday sentencing: "He has additional information that will be of value to the investigations; however, he shared that he held select information at the request of the government and will provide it post-sentencing."
The letter from the NCAA was among a volume of letters from supporters designed to encourage the judge to show leniency toward Blazer in his sentencing, including letters from his wife and three children, among them a handwritten letter from his teenage daughter whose birthday falls on the day of his sentencing. Blazer's attorney, Martin Dietz, has requested a sentence that does not include incarceration.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York also filed a letter with the court asking for consideration of Blazer's contributions in deciding his sentence. The letter noted Blazer's cooperation in gathering evidence and testifying at trial, commended his "personal sacrifice" and said that his efforts led to "the biggest and most significant federal investigation and prosecution of corruption in college athletics."
Blazer was also present for a July 2017 meeting in Las Vegas at which two of the main defendants in the case -- aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code -- met with several college basketball coaches and an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor to discuss and in some cases exchange money for the purpose of securing star players. Video and audio recordings from that meeting became key pieces of evidence in the government's case.
Blazer testified last year in the case in which Dawkins and Code were convicted in May 2019 for having bribed assistant coaches to steer their players toward Dawkins' agency and certain financial advisers. Code and Dawkins have appealed those convictions.
In a related October 2018 trial, Dawkins, Code and former Adidas executive James Gatto were convicted of paying bribes to parents and handlers of high-profile recruits to steer the players to schools sponsored by the apparel company. They have appealed those convictions.
According to Blazer's testimony and documents filed with the court this week, Blazer outlined a history of paying college athletes -- many of whom later became his clients -- prior to his involvement with the FBI investigation. The payments, totaling at least $70,000, were made to players at Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Alabama, North Carolina, Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State, where Blazer stated that he also gave money to a player's father at the behest of a coach.
Sports Illustrated first reported the contents of the NCAA's letter to Ramos. ESPN had also obtained a copy of the letter, which was submitted to the court on Friday.