A federal judge on Thursday refused to dismiss federal criminal charges against former Auburn basketball assistant Chuck Person and former NBA referee Rashan Michel, who are accused of accepting bribes to steer players to certain financial advisers and agents once they turned pro.
Person and Michel are scheduled to stand trial in U.S. District Court in New York on June 17. They have pleaded not guilty.
A former Auburn and NBA player and an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2014 to 2017, Person is accused of soliciting and accepting at least $91,500 from Louis Martin Blazer III, a former financial adviser, who was working as a cooperating witness for the FBI in its investigation into college basketball corruption.
Person is also accused of helping facilitate money to players' families. The government alleges he provided $11,000 to one player's family and $7,500 to another.
Person is charged with six federal criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, honest services wire fraud, wire fraud and Travel Act conspiracy.
Michel, who owns a bespoke custom clothing store in Atlanta, is accused of brokering the relationship between Blazer and Person, as well as receiving tens of thousands of dollars from Blazer to introduce him to Person and other college coaches. Michel is not charged with wire fraud.
In a 30-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska rejected defense attorneys' arguments that the federal government was attempting to make federal crimes out of unreported NCAA rules violations.
"For one, there were misrepresentations made by Person as to the nature of the service that he was providing -- he omitted informing the University of his additional service of providing financial and sartorial service provider recommendations through the use of his influence -- a disclosure that would have put the University out of compliance with NCAA rules and made the recipient players ineligible to play," Preska wrote.
"These misrepresentations went to an essential element of Person's employment with the University -- running an NCAA-compliant program. There is also an alleged exposure of the University to potential economic harm from Person's misrepresentations, including NCAA penalties and fines."
Auburn players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were ruled ineligible for the 2017-18 season after the university self-reported violations involving recruiting, extra benefits and agents. Purifoy was also suspended for 30 percent of the 2018-19 season and didn't play in the No. 12 Tigers' first nine games.
On Wednesday, former USC assistant Tony Bland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted accepting $4,100 to steer players to certain financial advisers and business managers.
The other defendants in that case -- former Arizona assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson, former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for NBA agent Andy Miller -- are weighing whether to accept plea deals from the federal government.
Their case is scheduled for trial in New York in April.
Code, Dawkins and Adidas executive James Gatto were convicted in October of fraud charges in a pay-for-play scheme to steer high-profile recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State.
They are scheduled to be sentenced in March.