Michel, an Atlanta-Based Business Owner, Facilitated Bribes To a Former Auburn University Men’s Basketball Coach In Order To Secure College Basketball Players As Clients For Both Michel And a Financial Adviser
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that RASHAN MICHEL, the owner of a bespoke clothing business in Atlanta, Georgia, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court today to agreeing to facilitate bribes from a financial adviser to Chuck Connors Person (“Person”), a former Auburn University men’s basketball coach. The bribes were provided in exchange for Person using his influence over Auburn basketball players to retain MICHEL’s services and the services of the financial adviser paying the bribes. MICHEL pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As he admitted today, Rashan Michel was paid to facilitate bribe payments from a financial adviser to college basketball coaches. His corruption of the system was significant but, sadly, far from unique. Indeed, in the last year this Office has convicted nine defendants in connection with fraud or bribery in the world of college basketball. We will continue to pursue those who offer or take bribes to influence student-athletes without regard to their interest.”
According to the Complaint, the Indictment, statements made in court, and publicly available documents:
In the fall of 2016, MICHEL, the founder and operator of a clothing store that specialized in making bespoke suits for professional athletes, met a financial adviser and business manager who, unbeknownst to MICHEL, was providing information to law enforcement (“CW-1”). MICHEL told CW-1 that MICHEL could introduce CW-1 to several college basketball coaches, including Person, who was then a men’s basketball coach at Auburn University, who would be willing to accept bribes from CW-1. MICHEL and CW-1 agreed to offer such bribes in return for the coaches’ agreeing to exert their influence over student-athletes to retain the services of Michel and CW-1 once the student-athletes entered the National Basketball Association (“NBA”).
In November 2016, MICHEL, who had a preexisting relationship with Person, arranged a meeting in Auburn, Alabama, to introduce CW-1 to Person and to broker the arrangement between CW-1 and Person whereby CW-1 would provide bribes to Person. At that meeting, in exchange for bribes, Person agreed to exert his influence over certain student-athletes Person coached at Auburn University to retain the services of CW-1 and MICHEL once those players entered the NBA. Over the next several months, in exchange for the bribes described above, Person did, in fact, arrange a meeting among CW-1, MICHEL and an Auburn student-athlete in Manhattan. At that meeting, Person falsely touted CW-1’s qualifications as a financial adviser and business manager without disclosing that Person was, in fact, being bribed to recommend CW-1 to the student-athlete. In connection with the bribery scheme, Person also steered the parent of a second student-athlete to CW-1.
In addition to brokering the bribery scheme with Person, MICHEL also solicited and received for himself tens of thousands of dollars in payments from CW-1 in exchange for introducing CW-1 to Person, and for promising to introduce CW-1 to other basketball coaches at NCAA Division I universities to engage in a similar bribery arrangement. Ultimately, MICHEL did introduce one member of a university athletics department to CW-1 for the purpose of engaging in a similar scheme. Working with MICHEL, CW-1 made payments to that individual, who in turn attempted to steer the parent of a student-athlete to CW-1.
In all, CW-1 paid more than $91,500 in bribes to Person, and paid MICHEL $24,000 for his role in the scheme.
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MICHEL, 44, of Atlanta, Georgia, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. As a condition of his plea, MICHEL agreed to forfeit $24,000. The charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge. Sentencing is scheduled for September 18, 2019, before Judge Preska.
Mr. Berman praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Robert L. Boone, Aline R. Flodr, Noah Solowiejczyk, and Eli J. Mark are in charge of the prosecution.