Jay G. Tate/AuburnSports.com
AUBURN | Auburn associate head coach Chuck Person on Tuesday was arrested by the FBI and charged with fraud and corruption.
He was one of four college coaches caught in a two-year FBI sting operation.
Person is accused of accepting bribes worth a total of $91,500 in exchange for steering players to sign with a financial advisor before their college eligibility had expired. He's been charged with bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes and gratuities, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and travel act conspiracy.
The most damning charges from an Auburn perspective involve payments Person claimed to have made to the mothers of two current players. The indictment states that Person paid $11,000 to one family and $7,500 to "encourage them further to retain the services of" a cooperating witness' financial firm.
That behavior is expressly prohibited by the NCAA.
Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Tuesday morning that the covert nature of the investigation means the NCAA wasn't aware of the situation until the FBI's announcement Tuesday morning. It's unclear how Auburn will deal with this issue in the near term, though long-term penalties seem unavoidable.
Person was drawn into the sting by Rashan Michel, a one-time referee who more recently gained fame as an Atlanta-based haberdasher for professional athletes. Michel was approached by someone purporting to be a financial adviser searching for prospective NBA clients — he is known only as "CW-1" in the indictments — and Michel viewed Person as someone who could provide links to those prospective clients.
Person put pen to paper 10 months ago on an agreement that yielded him $50,000 via four payments in exchange for his help in getting players to sign with CW-1's firm. During the next few months, Person connected two Auburn players and their mothers to both Michel and CW-1 — making good on his end of the bargain.
Employees of publicly funded universities like Auburn legally are prohibited from accepting bribes. Person has been charged with six counts of various crimes related to bribery and corruption.
Auburn on Tuesday morning suspended Person without pay. He currently is in U.S. District Court in Montgomery.
"We are committed to playing by the rules," the university said in a statement, "and that's what we expect from our coaches."