Auburn assistant basketball coach Chuck Person charged with corruption

AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — Auburn assistant basketball coach Chuck Person is one of four college basketball coaches being charged with involvement in a corruption scheme.

In a press conference this morning, the United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York laid out the charges against Person, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, and Tony Bland of Southern Cal as well as other individuals totally ten people in all.

“These men allegedly participated in two different but related schemes,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim said. “In the first, college coaches took cash bribes from managers and advisers in exchange for directing players and their families to those bribers. In the second scheme, managers, advisers, and those affiliated with the sportswear company worked together to funnel money to some of the country’s top high school recruits.”

Person is facing six charges, all stemming from the first scheme. Kim laid out the violation of trust Person had committed using Person’s own words obtained through phone calls and other recordings.

“Chuck Person, in describing his influence over one of his players, put it this way, ‘He listens to one person. That is me,'” Kim said. “Chuck Person also explained that his players trusted and looked up to him because, as he reminded them, he coached Kobe Bryant and had worked for Phil Jackson.

“Chuck Person claimed that one of {the advisers} was his own personal adviser and adviser to Hall of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley. Well, that wasn’t true. That adviser, the same one who is cooperating with the government, had never even met Charles Barkley and had never handled Chuck Person’s money other than paying him cash bribes. Chuck Person also assured a player’s mother that he himself had not received a penny for promoting that adviser to her. That was a lie, too. That conversation took place after Person had taken an envelope filled with $15,000 cash from that very adviser in a secret meeting in a Manhattan hotel room.”

According to court documents, the FBI has been investigating the case since 2015. The FBI says they have found numerous instances of bribes paid by athlete advisers to assistant basketball coaches to exert influence over student-athletes. The investigation began after a former professional athlete financial adviser was arrested and agreed to cooperate with the authorities for this purpose.

“Most of the coaches never asked the adviser a single question about his qualifications, his track record, and handling players money or really anything else,” Kim said. “A simple Google search by the coaches of the adviser’s name would have revealed that the SEC had brought securities fraud charges against him just last year, including for misusing his professional athlete client’s money.”

During the press conference, USAO-SDNY said the investigation was ongoing with interviews continuing even during the presser. Kim said they NCAA was unaware of the investigation before today.

“We have reached out to the NCAA and we will be working and talking to them,” Kim said. “I’m not going to comment much more on what the NCAA should or could do. We speak through our charges and I think the charges speak pretty loudly.”

Tuesday afternoon, the NCAA released a statement from president Mark Emmert.

“The nature of the charges brought by the federal government are deeply disturbing,” Emmert said in the statement tweeted out by the NCAA Twitter account. “We have no tolerance whatsoever for this alleged behavior. Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families and these bribery allegations, if true, express and extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust. We learned of these charges this morning and of course will support the ongoing criminal federal investigation.”

Click here to read the full affidavit.

The fallout on The Plains from Person’s arrest has already begun, with Auburn University President Steven Leath posting on his Twitter account that Person has been suspended without pay.

“This morning’s news is shocking. We are saddened, angry and disappointed,” Leath said. “We are committed to playing by the rules and that’s what we expect from our coaches. In the meantime, Auburn is working closely with law enforcement and we will help them in their investigation in any way we can.”

Person was one of the original hires by Bruce Pearl after joining Auburn in 2014. He has been an assistant coach with the Tigers since 2015.

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