NCAA scandal defendant Michel accepts plea deal

Former NBA referee Rashan Michel, the lone remaining defendant in the third federal criminal trial involving alleged college basketball corruption, accepted a plea deal with prosecutors on Tuesday on a charge of bribery conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors accused Michel, who worked as an NBA referee from 1997 to 2001, of accepting $49,000 in bribes from September 2016 to September 2017, according to a federal complaint.

Michel was charged with six felony counts related to soliciting bribes, wire fraud and travel act conspiracy.

"As he admitted today, Rashan Michel was paid to facilitate bribe payments from a financial adviser to college basketball coaches," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. "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."

As part of his plea deal, Michel agreed to forfeit $24,000, the amount of the bribe he received from a business adviser who was providing information to law enforcement. He faces a maximum prison term of five years, however, the plea agreement Michel signed with prosecutors recommends a sentence of 12 months to 18 months in prison.

Michel's sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person, a co-defendant in the case, pleaded guilty in March to accepting about $91,500 in bribes to influence his players to sign with certain financial advisers once they turned pro. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9 and faces up to 2½ years in federal prison.

Prosecutors alleged that Michel, who worked as a suit maker for professional athletes after leaving the NBA, introduced Marty Blazer, a cooperating witness for the government, to Person in September 2016.

Blazer allegedly made a $50,000 loan to Person, who agreed to influence his players to work with Blazer as a business manager and financial adviser. Prosecutors alleged Person would not have to repay the loan if he delivered Auburn players to Blazer as clients.

Prosecutors alleged that Person arranged for Blazer to meet with Auburn players and their parents at Person's home in December 2016 and January 2017.

Michel's trial was scheduled to begin in New York on June 17.

Jurors in the same courthouse on Tuesday were deliberating for a second day about whether aspiring agent Christian Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code bribed assistant coaches to steer their players toward Dawkins' new sports management company.

Code, Dawkins and former Adidas executive James Gatto were convicted in October on conspiracy and fraud charges for their roles in pay-for-play schemes to send recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State.