NCAA Wiretaps Yield Hours of Chuck Person Calls, U.S. Says

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. wiretapped months of phone conversations of Chuck Person, a former National Basketball Association star who’s charged in a federal probe of corruption in the recruitment of U.S. college athletes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lee Boone told a judge Tuesday that investigators tapped one of Person’s phones for three months and another phone for one month, resulting in 16 hours of recorded conversations. The phone of another defendant, Rashan Michel, an owner of an apparel company in Atlanta, was tapped for five months, yielding 36 hours of recordings, he said.

Boone didn’t identify any of the other people involved in the phone calls.

The disclosures came in a seven-minute hearing before U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan federal court. During the hearing, Person and Michel pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Both men declined to comment outside court.

Person, an ex-coach at Auburn University, and Michel were among 10 coaches, managers, financial advisers and sportswear-company representatives charged in September in alleged bribery schemes that aimed to steer young athletes to powerhouse schools and into clothing contracts and financial advisory deals. Among those accused were current and former coaching staff members at Oklahoma State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Southern California and the University of South Carolina.

The government claims Person took bribes to steer Auburn players to Louis Martin Blazer III, a Pittsburgh-area asset manager who had been accused of stealing from clients and later cooperated with the government’s investigation.

Auburn suspended Person without pay after the charges were made public, and he was fired on Oct. 18.

In the complaint filed in September, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote that wiretaps showed Person pressured unidentified players and their family members into retaining Blazer, who was facing civil fraud charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The complaint included excerpts of the recorded conversations.

Person allegedly lied to the mother of one player in a Dec. 17, 2016 call, falsely telling her that Blazer advised him as well as Charles Barkley, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and popular television basketball analyst.

"I trust him," Person allegedly told the player’s mother.

The case is U.S. v. Person, 17-cr-00683, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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