North Carolina

Apparent FBI informant in college basketball scandal had previous ties to UNC athletes

An informant who is said to have helped build the federal case that on Tuesday rocked the college basketball world appears to be a Pittsburgh-based financial adviser who once attempted, in violation of NCAA rules, to lure former North Carolina football players to his financial advising business.

The informant is not identified by name in the documents the Department of Justice released on Tuesday, when it revealed a years-long FBI investigation that has uncovered widespread fraud and corruption in college basketball. According to the Washington Post and ESPN as well an examination of FBI documents related to the case, the informant is identified as Marty Blazer, who in the past has had ties to former UNC football players Chris Hawkins and Greg Little.

Blazer in the FBI documents is described as “CW-1,” short for “cooperating witness.” He began cooperating with the government in 2014. Though he is not named in the document, the FBI describes “CW-1” as having agreed on May 6, 2016, “to settle civil charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to CW-1’s violations of certain securities laws.”

The only SEC case settled on May 6, 2016, was the one involving Blazer, who, according to the SEC’s litigation release, was “accused of taking money without permission from the accounts of several professional athletes in order to invest in movie projects and make Ponzi-like payments.”

Blazer in 2017 pleaded guilty to securities fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft without admitting to or denying the allegations against him. Amid his federal case he cooperated in the FBI’s college basketball investigation, which confirmed the kind of sordid corruption at the depths of the sport that had long been assumed but has been difficult to prove. Blazer helped the FBI establish a link to Munish Sood, an investment adviser who is accused, with others, of funneling $100,000 to the family of a basketball player who committed to Louisville in June. That player is believed to be former N.C. State target Brian Bowen.

An effort to reach Marty Dietz, a lawyer for Blazer, was unsuccessful. Dietz declined to comment to the Washington Post, citing the ongoing investigation.

Blazer’s apparent role as an FBI informant comes a little more than two years after he surfaced in the state of North Carolina’s case concerning the violation of laws governing sports agents. In that case, the state alleged that Chris Hawkins, a former UNC football player whom the university had banned from its athletic facilities and prohibited from contacting its athletes, violated the state’s sports agent laws.

Investigators determined, according to court documents, that Hawkins and Blazer worked together to induce former UNC football players to sign with a certain agent or financial adviser, Blazer included. Hawkins and Blazer sent each other “numerous” emails discussing payments, or pending payments, to former UNC players while they were in college, according to documents The Associated Press cited.

The UNC players whom Hawkins and Blazer discussed paying, according to documents The Associated Press cited, included Robert Quinn and Kendric Burney. Both players were involved in the UNC football program’s impermissible benefits case, which the NCAA investigated in 2010 and 2011.

Eventually, the NCAA ruled Quinn and Greg Little to be permanently ineligible for receiving improper benefits from agents. UNC dismissed another player, Marvin Austin, for similar conduct against NCAA rules.

It is unclear to what extent Blazer’s actions contributed to the UNC football program’s NCAA troubles. NCAA investigators asked UNC football players about Blazer during their probe seven years ago into financial perks agents or their associates had given the athletes, transcripts released by UNC after a public records lawsuit showed.

Blazer wasn’t named in the allegations that ultimately led to a bowl ban, $50,000 fine, scholarship losses and vacated victories for the football team. Still, documents related to the state’s case involving sports agent laws revealed, according to The Associated Press, that Quinn received $13,700 to be steered to Blazer and Peter Schaffer, a sports agent.

According to those same documents, Little told investigators that he also received payments from Blazer while Little was still in school. Little received those payments, according to The Associated Press, through an account linked to Hakeem Nicks, a former UNC teammate.

Years later, in 2013 and 2014, a New Jersey bank sued Blazer over unpaid loans for which Blazer had signed as a guarantor. One of those loans, according to reports, was taken out in 2011 on behalf of Little, who went on to play for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

Staff writer Dan Kane contributed to this report

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

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