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Man charged in UNC agents probe agrees to testify

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -- A Georgia man charged with violating North Carolina's sports agent law has agreed to testify against an NFL agent also charged in the case.

Patrick Mitchell Jones, 43, was charged in 2013 with athlete-agent inducement for providing $725 to former Tar Heels football player Robert Quinn. An indictment stated he provided the money through Quinn's former girlfriend to entice Quinn to sign with agent Terry Watson.

Jones appeared in court Monday in a deferred prosecution deal requiring him acknowledge is involvement and "testify truthfully" against Watson, according to a court document. That could lead to his charge's dismissal if he complies with all terms over 12 months.

Jones was one of five people facing charges in the case centered on improper benefits provided to three UNC football players in 2010.

He has worked as a real estate agent in Cartersville, Georgia, and was described in a search warrant as Watson's friend. He and his attorney, Sam Coleman, left the courthouse without comment. His deal also requires him to stay out of legal trouble, perform 48 hours of community service and not discuss the case with other defendants.

Three other defendants attended Monday's hearing with their attorneys, including Watson.

The law prohibits illegally luring collegiate athletes into contracts by providing them money, gifts or other items of value. It also seeks to regulate sports agent conduct by requiring them to register with the state. It has been enacted in at least 40 states along with the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, though its structure and penalties can vary from state to state. In North Carolina, it is a low-level felony that would typically lead to probation for anyone who doesn't have a criminal record if they plead guilty or are convicted.

Jones' charge came after more than three years of investigation by the Secretary of State's office, which launched its probe in summer 2010 after the NCAA had opened an investigation into the Tar Heels football program. That case ultimately spawned the school's ongoing multi-year academic scandal, which has UNC currently facing five top-level NCAA charges that include lack of institutional control.

The improper benefits in the agents probe included cash and travel accommodations. They went to Quinn -- a Pro Bowl defensive end with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams -- along with eventual NFL players Marvin Austin and Greg Little.

According to a probable cause affidavit in a 2013 search warrant, Jones told an investigator in June 2012 he was Watson's longtime friend and said he sent packages containing cash to student-athletes at Watson's request. Jones would either pick up money Watson wired to him to send to an address provided by Watson or mail an already prepared package from Watson that the agent said contained cash, according to the affidavit.

Watson faces 13 counts of athlete-agent inducement for providing nearly $24,000 in improper benefits to Austin, Little and Quinn, as well as another charge of felony obstruction of justice for not providing records sought by authorities.

Watson declined to comment when asked afterward by The Associated Press if he still works as an agent.