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Former Adidas consultant TJ Gassnola sentenced in fraud case connected to NC State

The recruitment of NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr.

Fayetteville's Dennis Smith Jr. was one of the most sought after recruits in America and committed to NC State in 2015. He was he highest-rated recruit to commit to the Wolfpack and coach Mark Gottfried.
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Fayetteville's Dennis Smith Jr. was one of the most sought after recruits in America and committed to NC State in 2015. He was he highest-rated recruit to commit to the Wolfpack and coach Mark Gottfried.

Former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola was sentenced to a one-year term of supervised release on Tuesday in a federal court in New York for his role in the sneaker company’s pay-for-play scandal, which has ensnared N.C. State’s basketball program in an NCAA probe.

Gassnola cooperated as a government witness and had previously plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Part of his sentencing on Tuesday included a two-month home detention, with electronic monitoring, and a $100 fine, according to court documents obtained by the News & Observer.

Gassnola testified in October during the high-profile case against former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins that he had helped deliver a $40,000 payment to the family of former N.C. State star Dennis Smith Jr. during the Fayetteville guard’s recruitment in 2015.

Gatto was convicted of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy and sentenced to nine months in prison in March. Code and Dawkins each received a six-month sentence for similar charges.

Under the federal-court ruling, N.C. State, Kansas and Louisville were have found to have been defrauded by Gatto for steering recruits to those Adidas-sponsored schools after knowingly making them ineligible with payments.

Gassnola testifies about paying Dennis Smith’s family

Gassnola, 47, started a grassroots AAU program out of Massachusetts for Adidas in 2002 and ran it for 15 years. He cooperated with the FBI after it had announced the arrest of four college basketball assistant coaches and three Adidas-connected individuals for fraud and corruption schemes in September 2017.

According to Gassnola’s pre-sentencing court documents obtained by the News & Observer, the government was able to “significantly expand the scope of its investigation” after Gassnola had decided to cooperate in October 2017. The government case had focused on Louisville and Miami before Gassnola had got involved and then the case expanded to include N.C. State and Kansas.

Gassnola provided documents and text messages and evidence for the trial against Gatto. Gassnola’s testimony, which details the $40,000 payment from Gatto to Smith’s family during the recruiting process, is included in the Notice of Allegations the NCAA sent to N.C. State in July.

Gassnola’s pre-sentencing court documents also noted: “the Government’s evidence with respect to the scheme to defraud North Carolina State University turned almost entirely on the testimony of Gassnola.”

According to Gassnola’s testimony, he got the money from Gatto and flew to Raleigh to deliver it to former N.C. State assistant coach Orlando Early. Early, according to the testimony, was then supposed to deliver the money to Shawn Farmer, who worked as a trainer for Smith.

Both Gatto and Gassnola showed up as guests of Early on a ticket list for N.C. State home games during the 2015-16 season.

Early did not testify during the Gatto trial and has not cooperated with NCAA investigators. In a memo N.C. State submitted to the NCAA, Smith denied “ever receiving cash from anyone at the institution or Farmer.”

N.C. State has until Oct. 7 to respond to the NCAA’s initial query, which includes two major violations (connected to the alleged payment of Smith) and two minor violations (connected to distribution of complimentary tickets).

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