Indictments filed against Chuck Person and Rashan Michel in FBI college basketball probe


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A federal grand jury in New York has returned the first two indictments in connection with the probe into college basketball recruiting.

Chuck Person, the suspended Auburn associate head coach, and Rashan Michel, the owner of a clothing company and former NCAA referee, were both charged with six counts related to the investigation, which was unveiled in September.

The 27-page indictment, filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York, charges both men with conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes and gratuities, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and travel act conspiracy.

The charges, which are the same alleged in a criminal complaint filed in late-September, carry a maximum 80-year sentence in federal prison if the men are convicted.

“Chuck Person did not commit a crime and we’re confident he will be vindicated at trial after a jury hears all the evidence,” Person’s lawyer, Theresa Trzaskoma, said in a statement to the Courier-Journal on Tuesday night.

A lawyer for Michel did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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Person and Michel were among 10 people – including four assistant men’s college basketball coaches – arrested as part of the college basketball recruiting investigation.

No other indictments had been filed as of Tuesday night, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to say when or if more indictments would be returned.

There were no indictments in a related case that implicates the University of Louisville.

Federal investigators alleged that Person accepted about $91,500 in bribes over a 10-month period in exchange for influencing Auburn players to do business with Michel, whose company primarily serves several professional athletes.

Person and Michel allegedly agreed to accept about $50,000 in bribe payments from an undercover federal agent.

“Chuck Person in describing his influence over one of his players put it this way: ‘He listens to one person, that is me,'” Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, previously said. “Chuck Person also said that his players trusted and looked up to him because he coached Kobe Bryant and worked for Phil Jackson.” 

Auburn President Steven Leath announced in September that Person was suspended without pay. It was not immediately clear if there was any change in his employment status. An Auburn spokesman did not immediately respond to a request from the Courier-Journal seeking comment Tuesday night.

Last week, Auburn announced that basketball players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy had been suspended indefinitely, putting an end to the mystery of the identities of “Player 1” and “Player 2” in the federal complaint against Person.

“To avoid any potential eligibility issues, Auburn Athletics has decided to hold men’s basketball players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy out indefinitely,” the university statement reads. “Because this is related to an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”

In a different criminal complaint, investigators alleged that two Adidas executives conspired with men’s basketball coaches at the University of Louisville to attempt to funnel money to recruits in order to ensure a commitment to the school and to the apparel company after they turned professional.

Louisville fired men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino, athletic director Tom Jurich and assistant men’s basketball coach Jordan Fair. Assistant coach Kenny Johnson remained suspended as of Tuesday.

Reporter Justin Sayers can be reached at 502-582-4252 or jsayers@gannett.com.

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