Atlanta clothier pleads guilty in basketball corruption case

NEW YORK — An Atlanta clothier and former NBA referee pleaded guilty in a college basketball scandal Tuesday, admitting to teaming up with ex-Auburn basketball assistant coach Chuck Person in a bribery scheme.

Rashan Michel, 44, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy, acknowledging a role in a bribery scheme in which coaches accepted bribes to steer NBA-bound athletes to certain financial advisers and even an upscale tailor like Michel.

Michel was scheduled to go to trial in June along with Person. Person recently pleaded guilty to the same charge and is awaiting sentencing.

Michel was the founder and operator of a clothing store that catered to professional athletes when prosecutors say he unwittingly told a law enforcement informant that he knew several college basketball coaches who would be willing to accept bribes to influence athletes.

Michel told U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska that he joined the conspiracy in 2016.

"I knew what I was doing was wrong and I apologize to the court," Michel told her.

Preska scheduled sentencing for Sept. 18. A plea agreement Michel signed with prosecutors recommends a sentence of 12 months to 18 months in prison. It also calls for Michel to pay a $24,000 fine, equal to the amount prosecutors say Michel accepted in bribes.

Person was among four assistant coaches at major schools to plead guilty in the case. Prosecutors said Person received over $91,500 in bribes.

The same day Michel entered the plea, a jury continued for a second day to deliberate the fate of a onetime aspiring sports business manager and an amateur basketball coach charged with participating in the conspiracy. That trial is before a different judge.

In a release Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Michel's "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," Berman added. "We will continue to pursue those who offer or take bribes to influence student-athletes without regard to their interest."

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