Former National Basketball Association star Chuck Person admitted to taking thousands of dollars in bribes to steer college players to hire a financial advisor after they turned professional.
Person, 54, a former NBA Rookie of the Year in the 1986-1987 season, was the highest-profile defendant ensnared in a crackdown on bribery, corruption and fraud in college basketball. His guilty plea, entered Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, comes just before the annual championship tournament known as March Madness is set to begin. In two days, Auburn University, where Person played and coached, is scheduled to compete against New Mexico State in the first round.
Person is pleading to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Under an agreement with prosecutors, he will receive 24 to 30 months in prison when he is sentenced July 9. Had he been convicted at trial he would have faced as much as five years. Under his plea agreement, Person will forfeit the $91,500 in bribes he received from the financial advisor, who was cooperating with law enforcement.
In September 2017, federal prosecutors charged 10 coaches, managers, financial advisors and representatives following a three-year probe into corruption at the sport’s highest level. The scandal struck the heart of college basketball and led to the ousting of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino from the University of Louisville.
“Chuck Person abused his position as a coach and mentor to student-athletes in exchange for personal gain,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “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.”