Former NBA star pleads guilty in college basketball bribery scheme
NEW YORK — Former Auburn University assistant coach and 13-year NBA veteran Chuck Person pleaded guilty Tuesday to a bribery conspiracy charge in the widespread college basketball bribery scandal, ensuring that none of the four coaches charged in the probe will go to trial.
Person, 54, of Auburn, Alabama, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court, averting a June trial. He and his lawyer declined to speak afterward and made a quick exit from the courthouse.
Prosecutors said Person accepted $91,500 in bribes to steer players with NBA potential to a Pittsburgh-based financial adviser. As part of the plea, he agreed to forfeit that amount.
Person said he committed his crime in late 2016 and early 2017.
The plea deal has a recommended sentencing guideline range of two to 2½ years in prison, though the sentence will be left up to Judge Loretta A. Preska. The sentencing is scheduled for July 9.
In a release, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Person “abused his position as a coach and mentor to student-athletes in exchange for personal gain.”
“In taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash bribes, Person not only placed personal financial gain above his obligations to his employer and the student-athletes he coached, but he broke the law,” he said.
Person’s plea falls in line with those recently entered by three other former assistant coaches at major college basketball schools.
Tony Bland, a former Southern California assistant coach; ex-Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson; and former Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans are awaiting sentencing.
Their prison terms are likely to be measured in months rather than years.
Person, former associate head coach at Auburn, was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1986 and played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.
In court papers, prosecutors said Person arranged multiple meetings between the financial adviser and Auburn players or their family members.
Prosecutors said he failed to tell families and players that he was being bribed to recommend the financial adviser.
In one recorded conversation, prosecutor said, Person warned an Auburn player to keep his relationship with the financial adviser a secret.
According to prosecutors, Person said: “Don’t say nothing to anybody. … Don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the teammates, that’s very important cause this is a violation … of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done, they get early relationships, and they form partnerships.”
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