Obscure con man steals spotlight as informant in hoops probe

NEW YORK (AP) — A once-obscure admitted con man named Louis Martin “Marty” Blazer III may have failed in his scheme to make low-budget movies with money swiped from pro athletes, but he’s now succeeded in stealing part of the spotlight in a scandal that’s shaken college basketball to its core.

Federal authorities revealed this week that Blazer was the wily informant — referred to in criminal complaints only as CW-1 “cooperating witness-1” — who played a central role in a federal bribery investigation of assistant coaches at four top-tier basketball schools.

“I’m aware of people who are willing to do this,” federal prosecutors say Blazer told authorities in 2014 when he agreed to wear a wire and buddy up to coaches who took covert payments in exchange for encouraging top-flight NBA prospects to choose a particular school, agent or financial adviser.

Blazer, 46, posed as an experienced — and corrupt — financial adviser and business manager while helping the FBI make hundreds of recordings — a ruse resulting in a case charging 10 people, including coaches from Auburn, Southern California, Arizona and Oklahoma State.

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The expanding ramifications of the probe were felt Wednesday when Louisville announced it was putting basketball coach Rick Pitino on unpaid leave in response to a related scheme alleging agents promised the family of a Louisville prospect it would get $100,000 from Adidas if he signed with the Adidas-sponsored school.

Authorities have declined to discuss their arrangement with Blazer in detail. And there was no immediate response to messages left on Wednesday seeking comment from his lawyer.

But a guilty plea to securities fraud and other charges that could buy him leniency shows that his cooperation played off of a pattern of deception dating to 2000, when prosecutors say he began paying college athletes to get them to retain his company as a financial adviser or business manager.

In that case, Blazer expanded his fraudulent portfolio using a Pittsburgh-based firm, Blazer Capital, that he billed as a “concierge” financial advisory firm that catered to the needs of the professional athletes, entertainers and other rich people, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Instead of helping them, he repeatedly dipped into his client’s accounts between October 2010 and January 2013 to fund movies…

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