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N4T Investigators: Former UA coach seen taking bribe, heard talking payoffs

TUCSON – Former UA assistant basketball coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson doesn’t know that the man giving him an envelope containing $15,000 in cash is an FBI agent. The video is one of several undercover FBI videotapes and secretly-recorded phone calls obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Here’s part of the July 20, 2017 exchange between Richardson and the undercover agent, Jeff D’Angelo, as D’Angelo hands Richardson the cash:

D’Angelo: “We were gonna do–gonna do 15 for three months, right? And that should help with the–with the kids? All right, so that’s….”

Richardson: “It better help with the kids.”

D’Angelo: “That’s the 15 there.”

D’Angelo was pretending to work with an aspiring pro sports agent named Christian Dawkins. Dawkins was convicted of bribing Richardson and other college basketball coaches, hoping they’d use their influence to get star players to sign with Dawkin’s new sports management business. Richardson pleaded guilty to taking $20,000 in bribes and is going to prison tomorrow for three months. His sentence will be served at a medium-security prison in upstate New York.

The secretly recorded wiretaps were played in federal court in New York in the trial that ended in May involving Dawkins and a financial planner. The 46-year-old Richardson pleaded guilty to one bribery charge, instead of going on trial on five charges and facing years behind bars.

The big target for Dawkins and Richardson was over seven feet tall. DeAndre Ayton was a high school senior all-American in 2017. In one video  Richardson says, “DeAndre Ayton is the best kid I’ve seen with my own two eyes at that size, at that position.”

Ayton is the subject of a phone call with Richardson and Dawkins recorded by the FBI in June 2017. It’s one of several wiretaps in which they mention UA head coach Sean Miller, according to court transcripts of the conversations. Here is part of that June 2017 call:

Richardson: “You and I gotta start working-Ayton is on campus. He’s gonna clear like-that’s something, like right now, Sean’s not–Sean’s gotta get the f—out of the way and let us work.”

Dawkins: “Your boy promised that he was going to let n_____s work on that deal. So we’ll see Sean plays it out. You know what I’m saying? We’ll see if he a man of his word. Because he brought it up to me.”

Richardson: “Yeah, because he need help”

Richardson: “You know what he bought per month?”

Dawkins: “What did he do?”

Richardson: “I told you, ten.”

Dawkins: “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. He’s putting up some real money for them n—–. He told me he’s getting killed.”

Richardson: “Yeah. But that’s his fault because he doesn’t want to play it any other way. And it’s like, all right, you scared of her, you got all the leverage.

Richardson apparently was saying Miller was paying or had promised to pay Ayton $10,000 a month to attend UA. The woman Richardson referred to is apparently Ayton’s mother.

During the same call, Dawkins mentions Miller in connection with another former UA player, Rawle Alkins.

Dawkins: “…you already know, Sean taking care of Rawle and them. So it ain’t no expense to Rawle. So, that’s easy.

But some people who know the 26-year old Dawkins call him “a big-talking, name-dropping, wanna-be street hustler”. He was found guilty of conspiracy and fraud and sentenced to six months behind bars. And Richardson reportedly said he has no knowledge of Miller paying players or attempting to pay them.

So why did Richardson mention Miller by name in the undercover recordings? Richardson’s attorney said he was just “talking big.” Neither Miller nor any UA players have been charged in the case.

Miller has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and made one public statement on the issue, at a news conference on March 1, 2018, when he said, “I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program. I have never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or a representative to come to Arizona. I never have and I never will.

“I have never arranged or directed payment or any improper benefits to a recruit or prospect or their family or their representative. And I never will.

“Let me be very, very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying DeAndre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona.”

The News 4 Tucson Investigators spoke with Richardson on the phone last week. He declined an on-camera interview but said he has been, “crucified” for taking bribes. He admitted what he did was wrong but said he doesn’t deserve any prison time. He said the problem of college basketball coaches taking bribes is “nationwide.” He said had to hang up to take a call from one of his lawyers before we could ask him more questions, including anything related to Coach Miller.

We asked Richardson’s Tucson attorney, Brick Storts, if Richardson told him that Miller did anything illegal. “Contrary to that, just the opposite,” Storts said. “He never implied that at all.”

Storts also said Richardson met with NCAA officials last month for six hours. “They were showing him the exact [FBI] transcripts you were referring to, you know, as to why he said this and what have you. So they were trying to get some answers to some of those questions. Which could lead them into other areas obviously.”

Storts said Richardson is remorseful. “The poor guy, if he could un-do everything now and put it back to where it was, I mean not only would he do it, I think he’d cut off an arm to do it.”

Richardson, who was fired by UA in January 2018, said he did not give any money to recruits or players. He was making $250,000 a year when he took the $20,000 in bribes. He said he was having financial problems caused in part by paying big medical bills for a family member. Richarson told us he definitely hopes to coach in college again someday.

While Richardson got three months behind bars, another defendant in the scandal got no time. Former Auburn assistant coach and NBA player Chuck Person, who pleaded guilty to taking  $91,000 in bribes, was sentenced Wednesday to 200 hours of community service.

If you have a story you’d like investigated, email us at Investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

 

 

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

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