An ex-Adidas consultant testified in federal court Thursday that a University of Maryland booster paid the guardian of basketball recruit Silvio De Sousa $60,000 to attend this university, according to reports.
In a phone call played in court, TJ Gassnola told a former Adidas executive, Jim Gatto, that because De Sousa elected to attend Kansas instead of Maryland, the booster “want[ed] his money back,” New York Times reporter Adam Zagoria tweeted.
Gassnola testified that he offered De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, $20,000 to help pay the booster back so De Sousa could attend Kansas. Gassnola said he did not end up making the payment, but testified that in an unrelated transaction, he paid Falmagne — who is also the legal guardian of Maryland forward Bruno Fernando — $2,500 for online classes for De Sousa.
In a statement, spokesperson Jessica Jennings said the university conducted an internal review and “found no involvement as a program regarding these allegations.”
Gassnola, who ran an Adidas-sponsored program since 2004 and was a consultant for the company beginning in 2013, pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud and agreed to testify as a government witness against other Adidas executives.
Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and former sports agent Christian Dawkins — who was helping run the ASM Sports agency at the time it reportedly paid former Maryland center Diamond Stone an improper loan — are facing charges of wire fraud in a trial that began early this month in federal court in New York.
The trio are alleged to have concealed payments to the families of college basketball players, which often were made in an attempt to ensure the players signed with Adidas schools — and, once they turned pro, the company itself. Previously in the trial, the father of former Louisville forward Brian Bowen testified he received $1,300 from a former Louisville coach during Bowen’s recruitment.
University spokesperson Katie Lawson said in a statement that the university has “cooperated fully with the federal investigation,” and has “complied with the subpoenas by providing responsive records, none of which evidenced any violations of applicable laws or NCAA bylaws by university coaches, staff or players.”
The testimony Thursday is the latest development in allegations surrounding the Maryland’s basketball program, which has not been publicly accused of any crimes or NCAA violations, but is nonetheless embroiled in the college basketball scandal.
In July, the university announced it had received and complied with two grand jury subpoenas issued by the FBI. The school said it provided the records requested in the subpoenas and that the records didn’t indicate violations of federal or NCAA regulations.
In February, Yahoo Sports reported Stone received a $14,303 loan from the ASM Sports agency during his lone season in College Park in 2015-16.
“I was disappointed that a former player was acknowledged in this report,” coach Mark Turgeon said Feb. 24. “I’ve always prided myself on doing things the right way and I have my whole career. I have absolutely zero relationship with that agent or agency. I wouldn’t know him if he walked into the room today.”
On March 15, the school received the first of two grand jury subpoenas the FBI issued Maryland as part of the federal investigation into college basketball. The subpoena requested records related to a redacted student athlete, Dawkins, and Maryland assistant coach Bino Ranson, who was the lead recruiter for Stone.
In April, a New York Times report implied De Sousa may have received payment to attend Maryland. The FBI subpoenaed Maryland in June for records related to De Sousa.
Earlier Thursday, at Big Ten media days in Chicago, Turgeon was asked what impact he believes the New York trial will have on college athletics.
“I think our sport, to be honest with you, is in great shape,” Turgeon said. “I’d like to think it’s not going to have a big impact on our game once the games start. I think it’s going to be another terrific year for us. You know, we’ll see how that plays out but I think, besides what’s going on in those courtrooms, I think college basketball’s in great shape.”
At an open practice in August, Turgeon told reporters, “I’m the same way I was the first day. I feel great about it, our involvement. Now, the subpoenas — just so people understand — they’re asking for information. So we’re helping them with information on those cases.”
“We’ve done an internal investigation. In my mind, that’s over,” Turgeon continued. “I’m not concerned about it at all. I don’t lose sleep over it, I don’t think about it. We’re moving on.”