HBO’s new documentary “The Scheme” shines a light on bribery in college basketball and the FBI's efforts to uncover, and some might argue facilitate, one such scheme – efforts that wouldn't have materialized without a deal with a corrupt financial adviser named Marty Blazer.
The central figure in the documentary is Christian Dawkins, the son of a well known high school basketball coach in Michigan who was working to turn his grassroots basketball connections into a management company overseeing the careers of NBA stars. In an attempt to fund his fledgling operation, Loyd Management, he unwittingly connected with undercover FBI agents posing as investors who were seeking to root out corruption in the college game.
Dawkins says in the documentary, which features supporting audio of phone calls between him and other central figures, including the undercover FBI agents, that his vision was to recruit and pay young basketball players from the high school and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) ranks, steer them to specific colleges, maintain relationships with them and ultimately get hired by those players to manage their professional careers. However, the FBI agents posing as his investors had a different idea: pay college basketball coaches directly, with the understanding that the coaches would pay the recruits and then steer their players to Loyd Management once they turned pro.
The FBI's goal, according to the documentary, was to build bribery cases against the coaches.
Dawkins was introduced to the undercover FBI agents by Blazer, 48, who presented them to him as business partners.
Blazer — whose full name is Louis Martin Blazer III — was a small-time Pittsburgh financial adviser, according to a 2018 ESPN story. Many of his clients were professional athletes.
Blazer defrauded five of these clients out of $2.35 million so that he could make movies, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a 2016 press release. Blazer used his clients' money to fund a 2013 movie called "A Resurrection" which starred Mischa Barton and Devon Sawa, according to ESPN. The movie was not a hit, making just $10,730, according to Box Office Mojo. He also funded a movie called "Mafia the Movie" the same year, which was never released in theaters. The film was retitled "Mafia" and went direct to DVD.
"At the end of the day, he took clients’ money and invested it in these movies and when the movies failed he took more and when the producers needed more money he took more money," Blazer's attorney Martin A. Dietz told Oxygen.com. "He would take money from one client’s account to move to another client’s account. He was basically robbing Peter to pay Paul."
While Dietz acknowledged that what Blazer did was "wrong," he insisted that his client "didn’t pocket one dime of that money."
Faced with fraud charges, Blazer started working with the feds in 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported in February. He was described as a freelance informant in "The Scheme" as he traveled around at his own expense to secretly record conversations with coaches, agents and athletes.
"He cooperated to stay out of jail," Dietz told Oxygen.com. "That's the only reason why federal defendants cooperate."
The FBI then began financing his work in November of 2016. That’s when Blazer began working with Dawkins, who spoke dismissively of him in the documentary.
“I literally think Marty Blazer is an idiot,” he said.
The FBI operation culminated in the arrest of Dawkins, then 25, and nine others in 2017. Various assistant coaches and former Adidas employees were also arrested and charged. It became one of the biggest basketball controversies in recent history. However, the feds stopped short of prosecuting big-name agents and coaches.
Dawkins, sentenced to 18 months for his role in the case, is currently appealing his convictions.
Where is Blazer now?
Even though Dawkins said in the documentary that Blazer "better get at least 10 years” behind bars, that isn't what happened.
In fact, Blazer managed to avoid prison all together. He pleaded guilty to securities fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and other charges in 2017. He could have been imprisoned for nearly 70 years, but due to his cooperation with the FBI, he avoided all that.
He got a year of probation in February, ESPN reported at the time. He has to pay $1.56 million in restitution to the clients whose money he took and he had to forfeit $2.4 million.
“To say that Blazer’s cooperation was helpful to the Government would be an understatement,” prosecutors wrote to a judge before he was sentenced, the Los Angeles Times reported in February. “Blazer’s cooperation was absolutely critical in investigating and prosecuting a series of precedent setting public corruption cases relating to corruption in college athletes.”
Character statements presented to a judge before his February sentencing and provided to Oxygen.com by Dietz, characterized him as a simple family man. In the statements, his brother-in-law called him a "great dad" to his three children. He stated that he is "highly involved with their school, sports and activities." His current employer wrote noted that "Marty was completely transparent and honest about his case, and also, he was also very forthright and contrite with regards to the mistakes he's made."
Dietz told Oxygen.com that Blazer is employed and working in tech right now.
"He is a devoted family man," he told Oxygen.com.
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