As college hoops hangs in balance, indictments increase speculation on who might be talking to feds

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

Since the morning of Sept. 29, when the FBI embarked on a multi-state, early morning roundup to arrest 10 men in a college basketball fraud and bribery case, the question has been which defendant would be the first to cooperate with prosecutors.

In the sport of basketball, the payouts and side deals to steer top high school prospects through college programs, to the NBA and into the client portfolios of sports agents, financial planners and shoe companies has been an open secret for decades. If a defendant seeking leniency was willing to flip and tell tales, the scandal, both in federal offenses and lesser NCAA violations, could go in nearly any direction.

The sport of college basketball hangs nervously in the balance.

And now it may know who to be nervous about.

Eight of the 10 men have been indicted this week by a grand jury empaneled in New York. The contents of indictments and who hasn’t yet been indicted suggest the possibility that the first two defendants to cooperate with prosecutors could be Jonathan Brad Augustine, an AAU coach out of Florida, and Munish Sood, a financial planner from New Jersey.

Neither man has been indicted and isn’t expected to at least this week, if ever.

In the indictments of the others, however, the two men no longer appear by name, although each did in the original charging documents. They are now listed as “a co-conspirator” – CC-1 (Sood) and CC-2 (Augustine).

College basketball hangs nervously in the balance as the sport’s seedy underbelly is exposed in federal court. (AP)

CC-1 is described as “a register investment advisor and the founder of an investment services company in New Jersey.” Sood, 45, was the CEO of the Princeton Advisory Group out of Kingston, New Jersey.

CC-2 is described as “affiliated with an amateur, high school-aged basketball team sponsored by [Adidas] that participated in AAU, an amateur basketball league.” Augustine, 32, ran the 1-Family program out of Orlando, Florida, which was sponsored by Adidas.

Moreover, in court filings, the government requested “a continuance of 14 days” in the Sood case, “to engage in further discussions with defense counsel about the disposition of these cases” because “granting such a continuance best serves the ends of justice.” It was granted thru Nov. 9.

In the charging document Sood is alleged to have worked to secure future clients by participating in a scheme to bribe assistant basketball coaches to steer their NBA-bound players to his firm. He was arrested on suspicion of a slew of offenses including bribery conspiracy, payments of bribes, honest services fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy among others. He technically faced up to 200 years in prison, although the actual sentence was likely far lower.

Augustine, meanwhile, was charged with being a middle man for payments to his players, among other things. He was facing a maximum of 80 years for wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, although that too would be far lower in reality.

None of this proves the two men are cooperating with the feds. They can still be indicted. However, multiple attorneys for the other defendants are suspicious of the developments.

A Yahoo Sports request for comment to the attorney representing both Sood and Augustine was not returned Tuesday or Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors have made no secret of their desire to expand the case and draw in additional names, programs and criminal conspiracies. Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, encouraged those in the sport not yet contacted by the FBI to step forward and his office temporarily operated a top line.

The impact of the case is two-fold. There are federal charges against eight men now, but also credible information and evidence that can be used by the NCAA to enforce its statutes, which may not reach the level of federal crime.

That’s already ensnared multiple players and programs not under federal investigation, including the University of Louisville firing of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, after the FBI uncovered a plot for Adidas to pay $100,000 to a high school prospect to play for the Cardinals. Pitino has denied any knowledge of the deal.

What other coaches, players and teams will get caught up?

At this point, it appears to be about what Sood and Augustine know and are willing to tell and prove. Those are the first. They are unlikely to be the last to cooperate in this case.

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