Is he a con artist or is just a brazen entrepreneur? The man at the heart of HBO’s new documentary “The Scheme” has a polarizing personality — plus a conviction for bribery — but nobody could ever argue that he’s not motivated.
By his account, Christian Dawkins was a key figure in one of the biggest corruption scandals in NCAA history, which resulted in the arrest of himself and nine others in 2017. Dawkins was running an agency at the time of his arrest — unknowingly financed by undercover FBI agents — which funneled money through coaches to fund prospective players and their families in hopes the players would sign with the agency, the documentary explains.
The FBI has contended that this makes both the NCAA and affected universities victims of the scheme, as the institutions are in turn defrauded out of the chance of fairly accessing the players.
Dawkins and others in "The Scheme," however, maintain that colleges and the NCAA are willing participants in paying players, and that the practice is nothing new. Dawkins claimed he saw nothing wrong with paying young prospective ball players. As “The Scheme” shows, NCAA players are not paid; they are only paid in scholarships, room, and board.
Dawkins grew up living and breathing basketball in Saginaw, Michigan, where his father coached basketball at the local high school, he explains in the documentary. Not only did Dawkins grow up submerged in basketball, but he also grew up obsessed with becoming a businessman. Dawkins’ mother told the documentary when he was 11 he claimed he started his first company; he had created a scouting service for the top local middle school players and created a website which ranked them.
Soon after, Dawkins took over an Amateur Athletic Union team that his father had started which he renamed Dorian's Pride, ESPN reported in 2017. The ambitious teenager recruited players and successfully persuaded Adidas and Under Armor to sponsor the team, according to "The Scheme."
In 2012 and while still a teenager, Dawkins wrote a letter to his parents to defend his decision not to attend college.
“I'm great, I have a special gift from God. I know this to be factual information. It is rare for someone to be as advanced as me at my age,” his mother read aloud from the letter in “The Scheme.”
He boldly claimed in the letter that he is in a class of people which including Mahatma Gandhi, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and Michael Jackson.
Dawkins didn’t end up going to college and instead went on to work as a runner for International Management Advisors by 2014, according to ESPN. In the documentary, however, he claimed he was hired as a managing director.
That same year, he began working for ASM Sports, another basketball representation firm run by former NBA player agent Andy Miller, according to the documentary.
Again, there's a discrepancy over his actual job title. While Dawkins claimed he was an agent for the firm in “The Scheme,” an FBI complaint — obtained by the Courier Journal in 2018 — stated that he was “a business manager."
Both these gigs soon crumbled. IMA filed a complaint with local authorities in 2016 alleging that Dawkins worked at ASM at the same time he was working for them, according to ESPN. More importantly they claimed he owed them $61,700 for improper expenditures and claimed Dawkins used Payton's credit card to charge more $42,000 in Uber rides, according to ESPN. Dawkins claimed in the documentary that he just forgot to remove the card from the Uber account. Because of that, Dawkins was terminated from his job at ASM. Attempts to contact ASM by Oxygen.com were not successful.
He then went on to try to create his own independent management team called LOYD (which stands for Live Out Your Dreams) Management Inc. In founding the group, he unknowingly teamed up with undercover FBI agents in the process — though there is contention over whether he was a main target of the NCAA investigation, in contrast to what Dawkins claims in the documentary.
Attorney Martin A. Dietz told Oxygen.com that Dawkins embellished “a ton” of the information relayed in the documentary, which often relies on Dawkins' word. Dietz represents Martin Blazer, the FBI informant who was thought to have initially led Dawkins into the scheme as a way to dodge criminal charges of his own. Blazer introduced Dawkins to the undercover agents but his attorney contends that the agents were not as interested in Dawkins as Dawkins would like to believe.
Dietz alleges that one big embellishment is Dawkins' claim of how much money he was given by the FBI. Another alleged exaggeration, according to Dietz, is that Dawkins was a main target of the FBI in the investigation.
“He just wasn’t,” he said.
Whether he was a top tier target or not, the FBI did zone in on Dawkins because of how he allocated money. Dawkins told the producers of “The Scheme” that for him, it was normal to financially support young basketball players. The FBI considers coaches to be public officials and because the Dawkins' company LOYD Management Inc. funneled money to coaches, who in turn gave money to players — it was considered bribery.
“The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one — coaches at some of the nation’s top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisors circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits," acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said, according to a 2017 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York.
Kim said that "month after month, the defendants allegedly exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes."
After a years-long undercover sting that caught a number of coaches and assistant coaches on tape making statements about paying players, the FBI made the mass arrest — which fell short of bringing down any bigtime coaches or agents — in 2017. Dawkins told producers of “The Scheme” that when he refused to cooperate with the FBI to bring down people like Miller, he had machine guns pointed at his face.
Dawkins claimed he was then brought to the same jail where El Chapo was being held.
Where is Dawkins now?
Over the course of two separate trials in May of 2019, Dawkins was found guilty of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, which he was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for, and he was found guilty for a pay-to-play scheme, which he received six months for.
While technically a convicted felon, Dawkins has not yet served any time for the sentences. He is currently appealing the convictions.
Dawkins maintains that the payment scheme wasn’t wrong and does not appear to show remorse for his actions or recognize that it was illegal.
“Any coach who offers to pay a play, in my opinion, is a good guy,” he said in “The Scheme.” “I don’t see anything wrong with it.“
He added that coaches who don’t pay players “are not good people.”
Dawkins is still ambitious and he has shifted his motivated career gaze to the music world. Brazenly, as he was going to court for the bribery issues, he claims he was also meeting with the CEO of Atlantic Records. He told the producers of “The Scheme” that he now has his own record label with them called “Chosen.” Atlantic Records has not returned Oxygen.com's request for comment on this claim.
Pop star Justice Carradine was signed to the label last year, according to a 2019 Billboard story.
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