Explaining the FBI college basketball case & allegations related to KU basketball
The coach of an AAU team who the FBI alleged arranged payments to family members in order to steer prospects to certain schools, including Kansas, has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors in the college basketball recruiting scandal.
Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola entered the plea March 30. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York ordered the documents unsealed on April 12, although they weren’t posted on the public docket until Friday.
Gassnola was identified by Yahoo Sports and other media outlets as “Co-conspirator-3” when the FBI announced new charges against Adidas executive Jim Gatto earlier this month. Those charges formally included Kansas and North Carolina State in schemes that alleged payments to lure prospects.
In the case of Kansas, Gassnola was involved in payment schemes that align with the recruiting decisions of Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, though the players' names were not identified in court documents. The charges against Gatto allege a mother and a guardian of two KU student-athletes were said to have benefited from illegal payments, which were made without the knowledge of the university.
On Oct. 31, 2016, Gassnola withdrew $50,000 from Adidas in cash and “personally delivered approximately $30,000 to a player's mother at a hotel room in New York City. Gassnola also delivered about $20,000 in cash to the mother at a hotel room in Las Vegas around Jan. 19, 2017. The parent also received a $15,000 wire transfer around June 14, 2017, according to court documents.
Kansas received a commitment from Preston in the fall of 2016. He never appeared in a regular-season game for the Jayhawks and withdrew from school in January. Neither Preston nor his mother have commented on the allegations.
According to court documents, Gassnola also agreed to make payments to the legal guardian of another prospect, believed to be De Sousa. The guardian told Gassnola that he’d been paid to steer De Sousa to Maryland and would need to make a $20,000 repayment for De Sousa to attend Kansas.
De Sousa's guardian, Fenny Falmagne, told The Star earlier this month: “We did not take any money. The kids and I never took money from anyone.”
Gassnola ran the New England Playaz youth organization, which had long been affiliated with Adidas. Gassnola used his AAU program to help conceal the source of the money, according to court documents.